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Police confirm death of SLO County Supervisor Adam Hill

Supervisor Adam Hill.

San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill is dead at age 54. He was found unresponsive Thursday afternoon, and as of Thursday evening, a heavy police presence remained at his home. A Pismo Beach police officer confirmed Hill had died, but said he could not confirm a cause of death at this time. 

Hill has been on a leave of absence from the county board undergoing treatment for depression. A county supervisor since 2009, Hill won another term on the board in this year’s March 3 primary.

On Friday morning, California's governor, Gavin Newsom, issued a statement about Hill's death.

“Jennifer and I were saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Supervisor Adam Hill, who represented his community in San Luis Obispo County with passion and optimism since 2009," Newsom wrote. "As we reflect on his legacy as a public servant and champion for the homeless, we also honor the candor with which he shared his mental health journey. We will hold Supervisor Hill, his family and the San Luis Obispo community in our hearts during this difficult time.”

"We have been informed that Supervisor Hill has passed away," said county administrator Wade Horton in a statement Thursday evening. "This is shocking and tremendously painful news. While we are unaware of the details at this time, we ask everyone to let the proper authorities do their jobs and investigate. Please respect his family's privacy at this time."

Hill stepped away from his board duties in July, saying in a county-issued statement that “persistent, and at times, painfully debilitating depression, has necessitated my seeking more intensive and focused treatment at a residential health program. While I have been working closely with county staff on the many challenging issues our community faces, I have not been able to recover and heal as sufficiently as needed, and chose to seek specialized care at this time." 

Hill's colleague on the board, Bruce Gibson, said in a Thursday evening statement:

"I’m deeply saddened by Adam’s passing.," Gibson wrote to KCBX News. "He was a friend and worked hard for everyone he served, especially those among us who have the least. He was also courageous in talking openly about his struggles with depression, always hoping that others might avoid that suffering."

Neighbors who knew Hill gathered outside of his house Thursday evening to share stories and to comfort each other.

“He was an incredibly kind man, he was a generous man and he was a sweet man who just wanted to do the right thing,” said David Christiansen, a neighbor who described himself as a close friend of Hill, and said the two had bonded over shared struggles with depression.

Christensen said Hill returned home from treatment last Friday.

“He came home with some optimism,” Christensen said. “He was really looking forward to moving forward. I just consider him a very, very dear man. It’s just absolutely shocking and breaks my heart.”

On the same day Hill was hospitalized back in March, theFBI served a search warrant at the San Luis Obispo County Government centerand at Hill’s home.

“He was just trying to clean up things and just try to fix them and make them right,” Christensen said. “He wanted to get beyond the depression.”

Christensen said he hopes people will remember Hill for his longtime service to the county, and things he accomplished.

“We can look up at the Pismo Preserve and know that was Adam's footprint all over that,” Christensen said. ”So the way to remember him is to go up to the Preserve, go for a walk and look at the ocean and say ‘Thank you, Adam.’”

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.