It’s impossible to make an informed choice in the current election of San Mateo County Harbor Commissioners without knowing a little of the sordid history of the organization. Unfortunately, that requires hip waders and a strong constitution.

In short, the San Mateo County Harbor District is governed by people more interested in fighting among themselves than managing millions in taxpayer funding and a couple of the true jewels of San Mateo County. This has been true for decades now, over a generation of elections. The San Mateo County civil grand jury has more than once suggesting disbanding it, and the Local Agency Formation Commission has repeatedly found it has “zero sphere of influence.” The Review has pleaded with the county government to do the right thing and manage it as a government agency rather than an endless collection of bad habits. All to no avail. Only recently, there have been claims of sexual harassment generating a boatload of legal bills and settlements for employees who left in a huff. Elected leaders have routinely turned routine disagreements over meeting times and such into epic personal grudge matches.

The only rational approach for voters is to vote out the incumbents. This year, voters on the coast will have two opportunities to do so.

District 4 covers most of the Coastside population and pits incumbent Tom Mattusch against two challengers, Dawn Korth and Lee Fernandez, both of whom live on this side of the hill. District 5, to the south, includes La Honda and Pescadero in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Incumbent Virginia Kiraly-Chang is running against Menlo Park’s Kirsten Keith. We didn’t bother with interviews in District 5 since we could not in good conscience endorse Kiraly-Chang.

We did talk to all three candidates in District 4 — covering Half Moon Bay and the Midcoast. After careful consideration, we suggest Korth for the job. She has lived in the Bay Area for more than 20 years and in El Granada since 2012. She calls Pillar Point Harbor her “front yard” with good reason. Not only does she live within walking distance of one of two harbors under district control, she and her husband also own two commercial fishing vessels.

That real-world knowledge gives her an understanding of how the harbor actually functions. For instance, she argues fishermen could have safely continued to sell direct to consumers in the early days of the pandemic, when the district reflexively closed the piers and parking to the public. (She wonders why farmers markets were able to make arrangements for social distancing, but the harbor couldn’t.)

Korth understands the dichotomy of our harbors. On the one hand, they are work places, where fishermen make a living for the benefit of us all. They are also magnets for visitors looking for recreation and relief from an increasingly urbanized Bay Area. She told us, “I live in paradise. I value that (people) want to come here.” For these reasons, she favors widening Johnson Pier for the safety of all and providing better educational opportunities for students and others interested in where their food comes from.

Korth is more than a local resident with a fishing background. She holds a mechanical engineering degree and works as a product manager for a large biotech firm over the hill. She has skills that will come in handy, and, in our conversation, seemed to have the even temper that is perhaps the most appealing quality of any candidate for this long-dysfunctional board.

A final note: We do not mean to disparage the many terrific, hard-working employees of the district. The Harbor Patrol, in particular, is a point of pride for all Coastsiders. How they manage to carry on in spite of dismal leadership is beyond us.

— Editorial board

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(10) comments

John Charles Ullom

Here is an example of dysfunction. Watch Nancy Reyering weaponize the agenda: --

This is the Brown Act Violations Investigation President Reyering wants you to read: --


Please stop perpetuating the fiction of dysfunction on the Harbor Board. We need steady, stable, and wise leadership now, especially during the continued challenges of COVID-19. You’re right that staff does an extraordinary job, and they are aided by the current majority who votes to get work done, doesn’t grandstand, and has had to put up with an extraordinary level of harassment. That is why the San Mateo County Labor Council has endorsed both Chang Kiraly and Mattusch.

I’m baffled why the newspaper most local to the Harbor District perpetuates the fiction of a "dysfunctional board” and talks about “fighting” when the truth is the leadership of Chang Kiraly and Mattusch have saved the harbor board from continuing on an unethical path.

And by endorsing a candidate in District 4 who is focused on the single issue of commercial fishing because her husband is a commercial fisherman, does a disservice for all San Mateo County residents.

With all due respect, the last commissioner this paper endorsed - Ed Larenas - has caused and enabled many of the problems you claim still exist. Commissioner Larenas' unethical behavior and blind support of Commissioner Brennan almost allowed for her boondoggle to Honolulu to be paid for with precious tax dollars.

So I beg to differ with the editorial staff’s opinion. Incumbents Chang Kiraly and Mattusch are the best hope for a smooth transition and continued good governance at the Harbor District because they had the courage, along with President Reyering, to oust the unethical leadership of Commissioners Brennan and Larenas in 2019 so that the public's business can be done and the Harbor District can continue moving business forward.

Vote for Chang Kiraly and Mattusch to keep the Harbor Board ethical, transparent, and functioning.


You’ve got to be kidding me. But I guess such dishonesty is very doable when you lack the conviction to post your name with your politically motivated thoughts.

The harbor district is dysfunctional. One board member sent straight up pornography to another. And seems to delight that it only technically wasn’t sexual harassment. Others are ON VIDEO literally screaming at each other. “Shut up Sabrina” in a sneering, childlike voice has become a stand-in around our house for “you’re acting like a child”. And don’t think that’s for a lack of other examples... my wife and I live with four kids under 7. The reality is that the four of them together are more mature than the disaster of a harbor district board on their best day.

The SMC Harbor district is a disaster. It has zero sphere of influence. It is a waste of tax payer funds. It is a useless liability. It should be dissolved without hesitation.

John Charles Ullom

Is there a reason why you aren't using VCK as a tool to shame your children?


Hahaha. Long term consequences?

I should have said that the use of SMC Harbor District antics as a communication shortcut is limited to me and my wife. My children know the names of a lot of local politicians - Santa Clara County Supervisor Susan Ellenberg is a fine example. They do not, and will not, know the names of our local harbor district commissioners. Nor are they familiar with their absolutely awful behavior. I would sooner sit my children down with a few seasons of The Sopranos before I would trust them with a single Harbor Commissioner.

John Charles Ullom

Good reply. Exposing a young mind to an hour of Harbor District shenanigans would take weeks of therapy to fix.

You Are wrong about Ed Larenas. He has done his best. The anti Brennan crowd smears him as best they can but they never specify what they are smearing Ed about.

Check out how respectfully Ed comports himself after Nancy Reyering treats Ed with incredible disrespect: --

Drain the Harbor!! Toss all of the bums.


The most notable accomplishment of the San Mateo County Harbor District:

John Charles Ullom

Virginia Chang Kiraly is NOT out of control:--

Didn't happen, it was a joke, she asked for it:--

John Charles Ullom

Black Heart

Thanks for the kind word about the Harbor Patrol. These employees often get overlooked but they work tirelessly to protect and serve in this great community. They show up to work, do their jobs regardless of covid, poor air quality, and the sometimes horrendous weather in which they face. The community is lucky to have them and I’m sure if you ask any of them they would humble say they feel lucky to serve in this great community.

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