Jim Gomez ’71 (Business Administration)
2015 Distinguished Service Award Recipient
The Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate the success and impact of Sacramento State through its alumni. Jim Gomez was chosen for his dedication as a community leader.
Jim Gomez ’71 (Accounting) tends to find himself on the front lines of major issues in California.
In the late 1980s and early 90s, as California’s prison system evolved into one of the countries largest—and most politically touchy—Gomez was at the helm.
His latest charge is helping a rapidly aging population manage a health facility industry that is facing tough challenges.
“I’ve been involved in policy all my life and you see society change a lot through that process,” Gomez says. “One thing I’ve seen throughout my career is what happens in California government gets replicated a lot throughout the country.”
A recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Sac State Alumni Association, he earned his degree at Sac State while working a part-time job, providing for his young family. Gomez was a whiz with numbers and professors like Wilma Allerton helped him sharpen his accounting acumen. He landed a fiscal student trainee position with the California Department of Transportation through Sac State’s placement office and it set the stage for his remarkable career.
“I went from running a pool hall and making $1.65 an hour to a fiscal student trainee at $3.37 an hour and I felt like I made more money than I would ever need,” Gomez recalls. “But that position really guided my career into state government.”
For the past 12 years, Gomez has led the California Association of Health Facilities, where he advocates and educates on behalf of the long-term health care community. He’s also started projects like “Art for Life,” which gives residents and clients a forum for their artwork. Gomez says the nursing home industry is making big strides in quality of care, which is critical as the state’s population ages.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to do to improve the quality of California nursing homes,” Gomez says. “I think it’s difficult under government funding to provide the level of quality you would want, but we’ve done a really good job of getting that quality up substantially.”
Gomez has worked for, or with, the California government for more than four decades. He worked his way up in the Department of Social Services before joining the Department of Corrections. After taking over as director in 1991 he oversaw a system that exploded from 8,000 employees in 1985 to 55,000 when he stepped down in 1997.
Gomez certainly earned his stripes as an administrator with the Department of Corrections under governors George Deukmejian and Pete Wilson.
“Imagine what you need administratively to hire and train 3,500 new employees every year,” Gomez says. “We built a machine in corrections because that’s what the governors wanted. Crime was the no. 1 issue and they believed in crime prevention.”
After that, he put his expertise in finance to work as the deputy executive officer at CalPERS, where he worked for five years.
Gomez is active in the Sacramento community, serving on the board of directors for Golden 1 Credit Union and as a representative on the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Quality Improvement Organization.
He’s returned to Sac State many times to guest-lecture in criminal justice and social work classes and most importantly, interact with students.
“To see the young folks’ quest for knowledge, I find that stimulating,” says Gomez, who enjoys travelling and spending time with his four grandchildren. “It keeps you grounded to go back to campus and have a frank discussion with students.”