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Horne on high note

The Union photo/John HartSue Horne holds her 18-month-old granddaughter, Chloe Horne, Friday afternoon at the supervisor's home.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

For much of the first two years of Sue Horne’s tenure as supervisor from District 2, she flew under Nevada County’s political radar.

As a state assemblyman’s county liaison, the soft-spoken Horne had enough recognition in 2000 to be elected in a late-hour write-in campaign. But as the lone conservative on a five-member Board of Supervisors, she was left without much clout as the storm over the Natural Heritage 2020 environmental study raged around her.

When that storm abated, two conservatives joined the board in 2003, and Horne found herself as the influential chair. Now she aims for a second term.



Horne’s challenger is Steve O’Rourke, who moved to Alta Sierra the year she was elected to the board. He has been an international businessman, but Horne’s history is no less interesting.

She was an Air Force brat ” one of six brothers and sisters ” who spent her early school years in Texas, Maryland and Japan. When her father retired after 22 years in the service, she ended up graduating from Oakmont High in Roseville in 1972. Her parents,




Helen and Lloyd Downing, still live in Rocklin.

Horne met her husband, Bruce, during high school. She remembers their first “date” was at a Doors concert in San Francisco (“although we really went to see the opening act, Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks”). She was four days shy of 20 years old in 1974 when they were

married at a friend’s home in Penryn.

“Neither of us was religious at the time,” Horne said. “But Bruce’s great-uncle, a Baptist minister, officiated at the wedding. It started an ongoing conversation that led us to accept Christ.”

That decision also led the young couple to Montana, where they attended the Hamilton Bible Institute and Bruce began his career as a concrete contractor.

“But it’s tough working concrete in Montana,” Horne said. “The season is so short; the weather is often brutal. So we came back home in 1978 and struggled to get the business going here. There were good years and bad years.”

They lived in Penryn, Newcastle and Auburn before moving to Lake of the Pines in 1980. Bruce built custom homes and Sue, while caring for their young children, got an accounting degree from Sierra College.

Horne said she is proud to be the wife of a contractor. “My husband builds one house at a time,” she said. “It’s humbling to help a family achieve the American dream ” to own their own home.”

She also resents what she calls her opponent’s attempt to define her as a pro-growth tool of developers.

“First of all, no developments of any size have come before the board in the past three years for me to vote on,” she said. “If I have personal friends who are builders or Realtors, that’s because I have lived in this county 23 years and a lot of people in the field live here. Some are supporting my opponent.”

In 1985, the Hornes embarked on another adventure. After training in Hawaii, the family traveled to Manila, Hong Kong, Seoul and China on a six-month, self-supporting church mission. “We smuggled Bibles into China, which seemed then as taking a real risk,” she said.

Back home, the Hornes joined other couples in 1986 in launching a crisis pregnancy center, the LivingWell Medical Clinic in Grass Valley. She remains involved today in a support role, and her husband is on the board.

“We were concerned about the high abortion rate in the country and wanted to make a difference,” Horne said. “Women can get a pregnancy test, get information, and get baby clothes and furniture through the thrift store.”

Horne first took a public role in politics in 1991 when she became involved with the county’s Republican Central Committee.

Also in the early 1990s, she attended a speech by State Assembly candidate Bernie Richter, a Chico businessman.

“He had passion, a strong heart,” Horne said. “I knew I had to help him win.” After he did, Richter asked her to run his Nevada County office and began pushing the political novice to run for county supervisor.

“After Bernie died (in 1999), I decided to aim for the 2004 election, when my youngest son was to graduate,” said Horne.

That plan changed when one of the candidates in the 2000 race suddenly withdrew. In a bold move seven weeks before Election Day, Horne declared herself a write-in candidate. She ended up the winner by 91 votes after a recount.

This time, Horne, 49, is on the ballot, and almost all of her kids are out of the nest. Damian, 29, lives in south county with his wife, Andrea, and their 18-month-old daughter, Chloe. He is youth music pastor for Sonrise Church in Auburn, where his parents attend, and owns a video and music recording company.

Jessica, 25, is in San Diego with the clothing division of Harley-Davidson. And Michael, 17, is soon to graduate from Bear River High School.

As board chair last year, Horne said, she tried to heal the wounds of NH 2020 by ensuring that every citizen had an equal say, “to show respect to everyone, and that everything wasn’t a done deal behind closed doors.”

“The board, on the whole, came together during a time of budget crisis,” she said, ticking off its 2003 accomplishments, including producing a balanced budget on time; easing public transit cutbacks; developing a Fire Safe plan; designating money for parks and trails, including a south county park; and negotiating more fees from the Waste Management franchise.

The county buzz is that Horne may seek higher office in the future. It’s speculation that she dodges.

“I’m proud of the accomplishments of the past year, and I’m focusing on another term as supervisor,” she said. “The Legislature is a different world. I enjoy being closer to the issues; to making a

difference one-on-one.”


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