Greg Jacobs

September 4, 2019

Greg Jacobs
Greg Jacobs
Retired Sonoma County District Attorney Greg Jacobs is being recognized as Sebastopol’s latest “Local Who Makes a Difference,” primarily for his work heading up the Sebastopol Rotary Learn to Swim program at Ives Pool for the past 14 years. With the help of many volunteers, the program has trained more than 11,500 local second graders in water safety over the years.
But Greg has a long history of volunteering in the community, always with some connection to improving the lives of children and young people. He’s in Rotary’s Overcoming Obstacles program which awards scholarships to high school students who’ve overcome adversity.
He also mentors students at Roseland University Prep in Santa Rosa and has served on the boards of the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center and the Sebastopol Parks and Recreation Commission.
For a man who says that he’s never had a “master plan” for his life, looking back, it’s easy to see the many factors that came together to propel Greg to become a mentor and advocate for young people.
Born and raised in Sebastopol, Greg saw first-hand the value of mentorship in his own life. His parents and their friends, Rotarians, as is Greg, served as strong role models. They were leaders in the community who highly valued and contributed to public service. His father was the mayor of Sebastopol in the 60’s and served on the board of the Santa Rosa Junior College. Later, as an Analy High graduate and avid swimmer and coach of the Sebastopol Sea Serpents, Greg credits his own swim coach, Norm Stupfel, with support and mentorship, even writing letters to Stanford University on his behalf. 
Greg graduated from with honors and a B.A. in English from Stanford and went on to Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. After graduation, he returned to Sebastopol upon the advice of a family friend, and through a series of what he calls “happenstance,” eventually made his way to the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.
In his 35-year role in DA’s office he felt deep concern for children who were victims of crimes and was encouraged when he saw positive outcomes. “I couldn’t win every case or solve every problem, but I felt that it was important to not turn away from the things that we CAN do to improve a bad situation.”
One of these cases was the highly visible trial of the murderer and kidnapper of 12-year-old Petaluma resident Polly Klaas for whom Greg was successful in obtaining a guilty conviction in 1996. In a recent profile in Sonoma West Times & News, Greg says, “I think that case made me even more concerned about kids,” Jacobs said. “You get that way after you have your own kids, of course, but this case had such a profound effect on so many people, especially children, and brought up so many issues of child safety.”
While in the DA’s office he took on the job to chair the Sonoma County Child Death Review Team, a state-mandated task force that investigates deaths of children. He noted that no one was eager to serve in the position, but he felt that he could bring his skills to bear in assembling an effective team.  He also reflected back on his philosophy of being committed to effect positive change where he could. While on the task force he learned that the most common cause of unintentional injury-related death in young children is drowning.  “We [the task force] addressed the drowning issue by getting the county to put up more warning signs at the ocean and river and also got a county-wide swim safety program,” he said.
Despite some of the serious issues  and long trials that often confronted Greg in the DA’s office, he learned that it was important to get away from the trial itself. Along with the support of his family, Greg’s appreciation for the lighter side of life has helped him remain positive.  “I love laughter, comedy, and humor. Even as a child, I got into trouble for making smart remarks.”
His retirement in 2008 has allowed him more time not only to devote to volunteerism, but to pursue his other interests and hobbies. He plays the trumpet in several local bands, has recently re-discovered the joy of fly-fishing, and enjoys hiking, camping, backpacking and birding with his wife of over 40 years, Kathi.