After more than 20 years of distinguished volunteer service with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, Chris Van Gorder has honorably retired as reserve assistant sheriff. Van Gorder will continue in his role as president and CEO of Scripps Health, a position he has held since 2000.
Van Gorder joined the Sheriff’s Department as a reserve deputy in 2002. He was named deputy of the year in 2003 for his work on the department’s tactical search team, and earned promotions to reserve sergeant, lieutenant, captain and commander. In 2014 he was named the department’s first reserve assistant sheriff, with responsibility for leading its search and rescue team and law enforcement reserves, along with other assignments.
“We thank Chris for passionately believing in the mission and purpose of the Sheriff’s Department so much that he dedicated 20 years volunteering for our agency,” said Sheriff Kelly A. Martinez. “It’s incredible that a very busy CEO of one of the country’s leading companies was so gracious in sharing his insight with our Sheriff Department’s search and rescue unit. Chris’ leadership is an example of the amazing things we can accomplish when we work with our communities.”
Being able to retire from law enforcement on his own terms last month holds special significance for Van Gorder. As an officer with the Monterey Park Police Department in 1978, he was severely injured during a family dispute call and was hospitalized on and off during the following year. His interest in switching to a career in health care was sparked during this time. But his passion for law enforcement never wavered.
“It’s been an honor to have served as a Sheriff’s Department reserve for the past 20 years,” Van Gorder said. “I started my career in law enforcement, but the serious on-the-job injury I experienced in 1978 forced an end to that. When I came to San Diego, volunteering with the Sheriff’s Department gave me a chance to work in law enforcement again. And this time I’m leaving not because I have to, but because I feel I’ve achieved a lot and have accomplished what I set out to do. Now it’s time to find a new volunteer opportunity to give back.
“I am a big believer in volunteerism. Citizen volunteers and reserves like those in the sheriff’s reserves or in search and rescue are doing everything they can to help their communities,” Van Gorder said. “They are an amazing group. It takes a lot of work, time and commitment, but it provides a lot of satisfaction.”
Van Gorder credited his experiences in law enforcement for aiding him as a health care leader. He says attributes that have translated well from the field to the boardroom include: the ability to make quick assessments and decisions; the dexterity to calm down tense situations; the perspective to communicate effectively and build consensus; and the courage to help those in need during emergencies.
Former Sheriff Bill Gore shared his thoughts on Van Gorder’s service. “For over 20 years, Chris has selflessly served the citizens of San Diego County as a reserve deputy sheriff. As a reserve commander, he developed the Sheriff Department’s search and rescue team into one of the finest teams in the nation. And when we created the new position of reserve assistant sheriff, Chris graciously agreed to assume the position and bring much-needed organizational change and his unmatched leadership to the reserve program. The thousands of hours Chris donated and the exceptional leadership he provided made our department better and San Diego County a safer place to live. Chris is living proof of the old adage, ‘If you want the job done right, assign it to the busiest man on your team.’ The Sheriff’s Department and the citizens of this county owe Chris a deep debt of gratitude.”