Joe Simitian

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S. Joseph Simitian
Joe Simitian.jpg
Simitian at the TeachAIDS inaugural gala, 2010
Member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors from the 5th District
Assumed office
January 7, 2013
Member of the California Senate
from the 11th district
In office
December 6, 2004 – November 30, 2012
Preceded by Byron Sher
Succeeded by Jerry Hill (redistricted)
Member of the California State Assembly
from the 21st district
In office
December 4, 2000 – December 6, 2004
Preceded by Ted Lempert
Succeeded by Ira Ruskin
Member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors from the 5th District
In office
December 2, 1996 – December 4, 2000
Preceded by Dianne McKenna
Succeeded by Liz Kniss
Palo Alto City Councillor
In office
December 7, 1992 – December 2, 1996
Personal details
Born (1953-02-01) February 1, 1953 (age 64)
Palo Alto, California
Nationality Armenian-American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mary Hughes
Residence Palo Alto, California
Alma mater Colorado College
Stanford University
UC Berkeley School of Law
Occupation Attorney
City Planner

Saren Joseph Simitian (born February 1, 1953) is a California Democratic politician. From 2004 to 2012, he was the State Senator representing California's 11th State Senate district, which encompasses all or part of 13 cities in San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz counties.[1] Approaching his term limit at the end of 2012, he ran for and was elected as a Santa Clara County Supervisor, to begin serving in 2013.[2]

Simitian chaired the California Senate Environmental Quality Committee and the Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Resources. He is the author of California's 20% renewable energy portfolio standard and California's data breach notification law, which requires companies and agencies to notify individuals when their personal information is compromised.[3]

Simitian also authored several high profile transportation safety laws, including California's hands-free cell phone bill.[4][5]


Joe Simitian is married to Mary Hughes, a Bay Area political consultant. Simitian proposed to Hughes on election night in 1996 upon being elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.[6]


Early political career[edit]

Joe Simitian served as President of the Palo Alto School Board from 1983 to 1991.[7] He was on the Palo Alto City Council from 1992 to 1996 and served as Mayor for part of that time.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors[edit]

Simitian was elected to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in November 1996. From 1997 to 2000 he represented District 5 (Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto, Cupertino, Mountain View, Saratoga, and Stanford, as well as portions of Sunnyvale and San Jose).

State Assembly[edit]

Simitian was elected to the California State Assembly's 21st District in November 2000, and re-elected to a second term in November 2002.

State Senate[edit]

Simitian was elected to the California State Senate in November 2004 for District 11. He defeated former Assemblyman and San Mateo County Supervisor Ted Lempert in the Democratic primary election, also prevailing in the general election. Simitian was re-elected to a second term in 2008. His second term ended in 2012. Simitian was one of only four Democratic Senators to vote against California's ambitious High Speed Rail plan.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry has put Simitian on a list of individuals banned from entering the country. The decision was made after Simitian travelled to Nagorno-Karabakh without Baku’s permission.[8]


Some of Joe Simitian's notable pieces of legislation include:[9]

According to the New York Times:

Simitian, who led a successful fight to ban motorists from sending text messages and using hand-held phones, has reintroduced a bill that failed last year to fine bicyclists $20 for similar multitasking. . . . Mr. Simitian is proposing the $20 fine on bicyclists who send text messages and a $30 increase on the existing $20 penalty for doing the same activity while driving a car, a difference that he said reflects the relative risk the behavior poses to others.

“At some point,” he said, “you do have to simply rely on the good judgment of folks as they go through their daily lives.”

Mr. Simitian added that he believed that efforts to legislate against distraction outside the car could diminish the seriousness of hard-fought campaigns and laws meant to curb distracted driving.

“Is there a problem out there with distracted pedestrians? I’d be the first to acknowledge it,” he said. But, he added, “It’s appropriate to distinguish between 4,000 pounds of steel and glass coming at you and a pedestrian who may well put themselves at risk but probably poses less of a risk to the general public.”[10]


Simitian serves on the following Senate committees:[11]

  • Chair, Environmental Quality Committee
  • Member, Budget Committee
    • Chair, Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy, and Transportation
  • Member, Education Committee
  • Member, Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee
  • Member, Natural Resources and Water Committee
  • Member, Transportation and Housing Committee
  • Chair, Select Committee on Privacy
  • Chair, Select Committee on Delta Conservation, Conveyance, and Governance
  • Member, Select Committee on Delta Stewardship and Sustainability
  • Member, Select Committee on Climate Change and A.B. 32 Implementation


Simitian has received the following awards (partial list):[12]

  • Californians Against Waste, Legislator of the Year
  • Palo Alto Educators Association, Friend of Education Award
  • Sierra Club, In Recognition of a Lifetime of Commitment
  • Palo Alto Stanford Heritage Award, Preservationist of the Year
  • Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, Friend of BAYMEC Award
  • Junior Statesman Foundation, Distinguished Leader Award
  • Housing Action Coalition, Housing Leadership Award
  • Billy DeFrank Lesbian and Gay Community Center, Friend of the DeFrank Center Award

Community service[edit]

The following are some of Simitian's other activities:[13]


  • Board of Directors, American Leadership Forum – Silicon Valley
  • Board of Advisors, Adolescent Counseling Services
  • Board of Advisors, O'Neill Sea Odyssey
  • Honorary Council Member, Leadership Mountain View
  • Advisory Team, San Mateo County Service Learning Project
  • Trustee Emeritus, Junior State of America


  • Co-Chair, Housing Leadership Council, Silicon Valley Leadership Group
  • Board of Advisors, Clara-Mateo Alliance, Inc.
  • Board of Directors, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network
  • Steering Committee, Bay Area Council
  • Member, California UN 50 Committee
  • Explorer Scouts Advisor, Law Explorer Post No. 804
  • North County Allocations Committee, United Way of Santa Clara County
  • President, Friends of the Children's Theatre
  • President of the Santa Clara County School Boards' Association
  • President of the League of California Cities Peninsula Division
  • Chairperson of the Santa Clara County Intergovernmental Council (IGC)
  • Representative of the President of the United States, 1994 U.S. Delegation to Observe Elections in El Salvador
  • Elections Supervisor, 1997 and 1998 Bosnian Elections
  • Volunteer, International Rescue Committee (IRC) 1999 refugee relief and resettlement efforts in Albania and Kosovo


External links[edit]