After 35 years in law enforcement, including 19 years as San Mateo’s police chief, Susan Manheimer has announced she will retire at the end of this year.
Described by community members and colleagues as a “super chief,” “woman of steel” and “legend,” Chief Manheimer, a San Mateo resident with two children (one a local attorney and the other a U.S. Marine) and three grandchildren, plans to remain fully active in the community in retirement.
The city is about to launch a nationwide search for her replacement, which “will be no small challenge,” City Manager Drew Corbett said.
The highly active and regarded Manheimer is credited by city officials for leading “an era of modernization” at the San Mateo Police Department that created an enduring community policing model and innovations in crime prevention, juvenile and homeless outreach programs, some of which have been replicated in the county and nation.
“Susan not only represented San Mateo, but was a sought after and recognized voice for policing throughout the state and country,” said San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy, who was formerly San Mateo’s deputy police chief.
San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the police department under Manheimer “has grown to one of the most innovative and community-oriented agencies in California…the very low crime rate in San Mateo is due in substantial part to her work as police chief.”
Manheimer was “known to many as a Woman of Steel with a Heart of Gold,” said Anna Kuhr, president emeritus at the San Mateo United Homeowners Association, adding that the chief “seemed to know all, see all, and be in all places at one time….Is there anyone out there who hasn’t received an email from her time stamped between midnight and 3am?”
The chief was credited in particular for her focus on the city’s youth. Under her leadership, the Youth Services Bureau was established to support vschool resource officers, Police Cadet, the San Mateo Police Activities League (PAL) and other crime prevention and gang suppression programs.
PAL, which builds bonds between cops and kids, has evolved into a broad-based service agency because of Manheimer, the city said.
“Few people realize how many young lives at risk have been redirected onto a positive track during her tenure,” said Deputy Mayor Maureen Freschet, a PAL board member. “She has galvanized the community around PAL, and has been instrumental in rallying local support and major funding to expand our reach and invest in the future of our kids.”
Manheimer is an active Rotarian, a founding member of the Tongan Interfaith Council, she served on the NAACP Board of Directors and the County’s Juvenile Justice Commission, and she initiated the nationally recognized and replicated San Mateo County Gang Task Force and the San Mateo Homeless Outreach Team.
The chief was born in the Bronx. Her father was a city councilman. Prior to her service in San Mateo, she rose in the ranks during a 16-year tenure at the San Francisco Police Department, serving both as a lieutenant and captain in the Tenderloin. She was appointed as San Mateo’s police chief in May 2000. During her tenure as chief, she became the first woman to serve as President of the California Police Chiefs Association as well as the San Mateo County Chiefs and Sheriffs Association. She also serves on numerous state, national and international boards focused on modern best practices in law enforcement.
“I’m thankful for the chance to fulfill my dream in this great City,” Manheimer said in a city statement. “I will always be profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have served with the extraordinary men and women of the San Mateo Police Department who give their all to keep this community safe and promote the quality of life for all its residents.”
Statements in response to Chief Manheimer’s retirement announcement:
Diane Papan, San Mateo Mayor: “Chief Manheimer served the City of San Mateo with distinction and then some. She is the consummate law enforcement professional, whose effectiveness is anchored by a boundless humanity she generously shared with every single person she encountered. She has left an indelible imprint on the safety of our city with her innovative ways of promoting a strong connection between the public and our police department. We are profoundly grateful for her years of dedication to our community’s well-being.”
Drew Corbett, San Mateo City Manager: “Replacing Chief Manheimer will be no small challenge. She has been a pillar in her field and vital member of the community. Through her leadership she’s fostered a top-notch and highly-trained organization that will continue to serve our community well.”
Mike Callagy, San Mateo County Manager and former San Mateo Deputy Police Chief: “Chief Manheimer’s leadership has been transformational, not only for the San Mateo Police Department, but for the County as a whole. She set the highest standards in policing, and in her role as Chief, was an incredible innovator in juvenile justice, community policing and domestic violence to name a few. Susan not only represented San Mateo, but was a sought after and recognized voice for policing throughout the state and country. Chief Manheimer always set the highest standards for others to emulate. As the Chief retires, her leadership throughout San Mateo County will be greatly missed, but her legacy will live on through those who served under her as well as those in the numerous organizations that she lent her time, talent and expertise to.”
Frank Jordan, former San Francisco Mayor and Police Chief: “The residents of San Francisco and San Mateo were very fortunate to have a quality person of integrity, sensitivity, communication skills and compassionate toughness to serve the public in such a meaningful way.”
Maureen Freschet, Deputy Mayor of San Mateo and San Mateo PAL board member: “The Chief leaves a remarkable and enduring legacy in this City, and few people realize how many young lives at risk have been redirected onto a positive track during her tenure. She has galvanized the community around PAL, and has been instrumental in rallying local support and major funding to expand our reach and invest in the future of our kids.”
Steve Wagstaffe, San Mateo County District Attorney: “Chief Susan Manheimer has served both her community and county law enforcement with unmatched leadership and service. The police department has grown to one of the most innovative and community-oriented agencies in California under Susan’s guidance. The very low crime rate in San Mateo is due in substantial part to her work as police chief. The District Attorney’s Office will greatly miss our collaboration and friendship with Chief Susan Manheimer.”
Anna Kuhre, President Emeritus, San Mateo United Homeowners Association: “Chief Susan Manheimer, known to many as a Woman of Steel with a Heart of Gold, seemed to know all, see all, and be in all places at one time. We all believed she possessed super-human skills, and required no sleep. Is there anyone out there who hasn’t received an email from her time stamped between midnight and 3am? Recognizing her unique abilities, SMUHA honored our Chief in 2012, bestowing her with the title of Super Chief Manheimer, and a special red silk cape for her evening flyovers. San Mateans always slept well, knowing that our Chief, watched over us 24 hours a day. It was her vigilance and concern that helped to build strong bonds and relationships between our neighborhoods and our Police Department. Her exuberance and dedication made San Mateo the safest city on the Peninsula. As she retires, she carries our admiration and deep affection. Even super heroes need a rest!”
Ron Lawrence, California Police Chief Association President: “California is losing a legend with the retirement of Chief Susan Manheimer who is the senior female police chief in our state. Chief Manheimer has a reputation as a strong leader and an outspoken supporter of our organization. She was awarded our top honor in recognition of her many contributions to our profession.”
Photo courtesy of the city of San Mateo
CORRECTION: The original article stated Manheimer was appointed as chief of the San Mateo Police Department in 2010, when it fact it was 2000. The article has been corrected.