About Jackie Speier

The beginning

Jackie has a lifelong commitment to San Mateo County.  Raised in South San Francisco and Burlingame, she attended South San Francisco public schools and Mercy High, Burlingame. Her father was a Teamster and her mother a devoted teacher in the San Mateo Union High School district’s adult education program for nearly 50 years.

From college to the U.S. Capitol – and into tragedy

The first in her family to attend college, her parents were adamant:  Jackie was to attend bucolic U.C. Davis.  U.C. Davis turned out to be a blessing in disguise because she was able to intern for then-Assemblyman – later Congressman – Leo J. Ryan.  He would become her mentor.

Upon graduating from U.C. Davis and then from U.C. Law San Francisco (formerly Hastings), and passing the bar exam, Jackie joined Congressman Leo Ryan in Washington DC. Ryan was investigating complaints from constituents about family members they claimed were held hostage by the Peoples Temple – a religious cult headed by self-declared Reverend Jim Jones –  in Jonestown, Guyana.  

Stymied by failed State Department efforts to get to the truth about Jonestown, Congressman Ryan, family members of temple members, Jackie and members of the press flew to Guyana to assess the situation firsthand and to offer hostages passage home. Some members of the Peoples Temple sought to defect. 

Jim Jones ordered the murder of Ryan’s group. In addition, 918 members of Peoples Temple – infants and children as well as adults – died on the orders of Jim Jones in an act that some in the press at the time labelled mass suicide.  In fact, most victims were murdered.  Infants do not commit suicide.  Congressman Ryan was assassinated having been shot over 40 times. Jackie was struck 5 times and lay bleeding out on an airstrip for 22 hours before being rescued by U.S. personnel.  She later returned to run for Congressman Ryan’s seat, losing that election but being elected a year later to the Board of Supervisors.

Board of Supervisors – the early years

Jackie served on the Board of Supervisors (1980 – 1986) at a time of great change. San Mateo County was transitioning from small businesses and agriculture to high technology. She fought to retain the rural character of San Mateo’s coast and for enhancements of the county’s parks. Through her seat on the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, she regularly voted to preserve San Francisco Bay for future generations.  

Jackie also worked to prevent the closure of San Mateo Medical Center – then called Chope Hospital – as it is the one hospital in our community dedicated to serving lower income residents. Today, our modern hospital and clinics are the backbone of community health and, along with its allied health insurance system and providers, the system serves 1 in 5 county residents.  

Her efforts to help the hospital and its clinics arose from her dedication to the welfare of women and children.  Then, and now, poverty in San Mateo County skewed heavily towards women. She authored the resolution to create the county’s Commission on the Status of Women as an enduring mechanism to focus the county’s services on women and children.

State Legislative Service

As a member of the State Assembly and State Senate, Jackie was an outspoken advocate for consumer financial privacy, healthcare, consumer protection, reproductive rights, children and transportation funding.  Over 300 of her bills were signed into law by both Republican and Democratic Governors, a record in the State Legislature.  

Her bills included the strongest consumer financial privacy law in the nation as well as bills to bolster child support collection.  Some of California’s most basic laws to prevent childhood injuries were written or strengthened by Jackie’s legislation including laws requiring that children be in child car seats in cars, removed from sweltering vehicles, swimming pool safety, and requirements for criminal background checks of childcare providers and employees.  

Her legislation also strengthened access by battered spouses to restraining orders and protected stalking survivors from invasive DMV searches by perpetrators.  She was regularly recognized by advocacy groups for her legislation protecting seniors and women.  She secured $127 million to create Caltrain’s Baby Bullet service, slashing travel times between San Francisco and San Jose by 1/3 and sparking a surge in new ridership.

 Congressional Service

Serving in the House of Representatives for nearly 15 years, Jackie was named to Newsweek’s list of 150 Fearless Women in the world and to Politico’s 50 most influential people in American politics for bringing the Me Too movement to Congress.  Her reforms made members of Congress personally liable for the costs of settling harassment lawsuits.  

While serving as chair of the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee, Jackie fought for the rights of military sexual assault survivors, reforming the adjudication of assault complaints by taking them out of the chain of command and by empowering independent special counsel to handle cases. 

Her efforts on behalf of parents in service to our nation led to expanded parental leave for service members, to major renovations of military childcare facilities, and to better pay for childcare workers. Her study of suicide in the military led to major reforms in mental health services, and the creation of arctic pay. She exposed price-gouging by military contractors leading one to refund $16 million to the Treasury.  

Jackie fought to advance the Equal Rights Amendment towards final ratification and spoke movingly on the floor of the House of Representatives about her abortion and the difficult circumstances women sometimes confront during pregnancy.  She voted for the largest modern investment in the environment through the Inflation Reduction Act, securing hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change.  She also secured $54.5 million through the US EPA to improve water and estuary conditions in San Francisco Bay, and federal funding for fire prevention efforts on the peninsula.  Jackie’s efforts also resulted in enactment of the Childhood Cancer STAR Act which provides $120 million in federal funding for childhood cancer research and $150 million for childhood cancer data collection and sharing.  

Jackie is a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion and has been recognized for her support of LGBTQ+ rights by Equality California.  She opposed Proposition 8, the California initiative that prevented same-sex couples from marrying, and when marriage equality was declared the law of the land, she joyfully performed weddings for couples whose basic human rights were finally recognized in law.

A deep commitment to community

On September 10, 2010, PG&E gas pipeline 132 exploded in San Bruno, killing eight persons, critically injuring ten, traumatizing hundreds of residents, and damaging dozens of properties.  PG&E initially tried to shift blame for the tragedy onto others, including the City of San Bruno.  In the immediate aftermath of the fire, she visited the severely injured in hospitals and comforted their families.  Jackie worked closely with city leadership to hold PG&E accountable through federal regulatory and oversight agencies.  

Along with city and state leaders, she held several public forums forcing PG&E, state and federal regulators to answer the public’s questions about pipeline safety and progress in the case. Ultimately, the National Transportation Safety Administration found PG&E liable for the explosion and determined that the City of San Bruno was not responsible.  

In 2016, a federal jury convicted PG&E of six criminal counts, including obstruction of justice, related to the explosion.  Jackie introduced pipeline safety legislation to require the installation of automatic or remote shutoff valves in areas of high seismic hazard and on pipelines in other areas deemed high risk.  It would also have required higher quality pipeline testing – called “pigging” – on an expanded scale, increased disclosure of the existence of pipelines to nearby property owners, and would have required many other reforms.  PG&E eventually agreed to adopt many of the bill’s proposals.   


Today, Jackie lives in Hillsborough with her husband Barry and their Goldendoodle Emma. She is the proud mother of two children – Jackson and Stephanie –  and recently became a grandmother. She is an avid Giants fan and enjoys watching Barry prepare to go fly fishing while she turns her attention to other important matters, such as doting on their new granddaughter.