Gong accepted employment as the Deputy County Clerk-Recorder for Contra Costa County
SAN LUIS OBISPO — On Friday, Jun. 4, San Luis Obispo County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong announced his resignation from the post that he has held since 2015.
Gong has accepted employment as the Deputy County Clerk-Recorder for Contra Costa County.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime and extremely fortunate for me, as I have desired to be closer to my family,” Gong said.
Gong grew up in the small town of Riverbank, just east of Modesto in the Central Valley, where his family operated a family grocery store.
When he completed his college education at U.C. Berkeley and San Francisco State University, Gong returned to the family grocery business, located in Patterson during the nineties.
After selling the family business, he began his career in public service as Elections Manager for Stanislaus County in 2003.
He accepted the position of Assistant County Clerk-Recorder for San Luis Obispo County in 2005, then was elected as SLO County Clerk-Recorder in 2014. After 16 years in the County, Gong will continue his public service for Contra Costa County and its 1.1 million residents.
“When I moved to SLO County, I realized that I would be moving quite a distance from my family, but my focus was on raising our young family,” Gong said, “but now that they are grown up, my focus has shifted to my elderly parents.”
This was especially difficult during the COVID-19 Pandemic when he had not seen his parents in over 1.5 years.
“16 years ago, I didn’t feel the same level of responsibility I do now for my parents and family, but now I am 16 years older,” Gong explained.
Gong is the only son of his family with three sisters, whose extended family primarily resides in Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Gong and his wife have been a part of the Atascadero community, where their two sons graduated from Atascadero High School.
Over the years, Gong and his two sons, Derek and Darin, play the trumpet solute “Taps” each year at the Faces of Freedom War Memorial in Atascadero in honor of Veterans and Memorial Day, a known tradition that will be missed.
Gong’s wife Sherry was charged with embezzling funds from the Atascadero High School Band and Pageantry Booster Club in July 2019. Sherry pleaded guilty in August 2019 to three felony counts of grand theft by embezzlement and was sentenced to six months in jail and three years of probation.
Recently Gong and his team have been addressing the 2020 elections and the voting systems in San Luis Obispo County.
On May 6 Gong, spoke to the request to do an audit of the 2020 election at the San Luis Obispo County Supervisors meeting. He explained that the time available for that audit has long since passed based on the rules and must occur within five days of the election.
Gong stated that at this point, there is no way for him to perform such an audit, either formally or informally; however, it is within the purview of the Board of supervisors to petition the courts to allow a recount.
As for the County’s voting systems, when asked about returning to hand-counting, Gong explained that would be roughly 27,000 hours of labor which would cost the County around $300,000; additionally, he could not show data of when SLO county last conducted a hand count.
The Supervisors were split in their discussion between voting systems and traditional voting polls open on election day, along with 20 voting center locations for four to 10 days to drop off ballots as well as mailing ballots to all registered voters.
Supervisor Peschong motioned to continue with traditional polling places, with a budget augmentation for vote equipment needed. Supervisor Gibson requested adding to the motion sending ballots to all registered voters, which Peschong declined and maintained that only permanent vote by mail registered voters receive ballots in the mail. The motion passed 3-2 with Supervisors Ortiz-Legg and Gibson in opposition.
Supervisor Peschong asked to bring back for discussion at a future meeting different legislative election processes such as same-day voter registration, voter identification, and ballot harvesting, which passed 3-2 with Ortiz-Legg and Gibson in opposition again.
On Monday, Jun. 7, Gong spoke at the League of Women Voters online event “Election Rules for 2022.”
During the event, Gong stated that there was no evidence of voter fraud. He also said that according to the “2020 General Election Survey,” his office performed more registered Democrats completed the survey with an average score of 9.8 out of 10. As to where the Republican Party, average score was five.
This outcome aligns with the public calls to the Supervisor’s meeting on May 6 from concerned citizens stating that they would like to see an audit done.
The League of Women Voters Co-Presidents Cindy Marie Absey and Ann Havlik released a statement following the event stating, “The League of Women Voters wishes to thank County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong for his many years of service to the voters of San Luis Obispo County. We will miss him. He and his staff have done an exemplary job securing and processing our votes, particularly during the demanding 2020 elections.”
The organization prides itself on being non-partisan, and they go on to say that “Last year’s elections were conducted in a safe, fair, and secure manner, resulting in a record turnout. It is unfortunate that uninformed, even abusive, comments and misinformation have taken center stage and put San Luis Obispo County in the national news in a negative way.”
This sentiment was not shared by the over 150 plus callers that called into the Supervisor’s meeting, explaining their concerns primarily focused on the Dominion Voting system, not Gong and his team directly.
At the May 6 meeting, SLO Supervisors Board Chair Lynn Compton addressed the public comment saying, “a lot of issues that we have no control over, came up today, some of which were state law, and obviously, there is misinformation… of the two options today they [the voters] think one will take away their ability to vote by mail.. neither of them do that.”
Questions about the 2020 election were addressed again at the Supervisors meeting on Jun. 8 when residents called in expressing their sadness and dismay over Gong taking a position in Northern California. Many placed blame on the recent election review and subsequent comments as the catalyst for the move.
In the end, Gong has big shoes to fill, with the upcoming recall of Governor Gavin Newsom and the outstanding questions that some of the San Luis Obispo voters have.
Gong said he is leaving the Clerk-Recorder department in a good position as he was able to recently fill the two Deputy Director leadership positions created to support the increasing demands of the department.
“We are at full capacity, staff-wise, and I know I am leaving the office in great hands with equally committed and dedicated staff through the transition,” Gong said.
The SLO County Clerk-Recorder position is an elected position, and with the vacancy, the County may need to hold another election in order to replace him. Another possible option is that the County could appoint an individual to fulfill the remainder of his term, which will be discussed at an upcoming meeting.
Tommy Gong’s last day in the office will be Jul. 2.
“I am truly grateful to San Luis Obispo County for providing me the opportunity to serve the community and hone my craft in elections and Clerk-Recorder functions. I will carry fond memories of spending almost a third of my life here,” Gong said.