The Desert IndependentTM
Serving Blythe and the Desert Regions of the Southwest Since 2001
Supervisor Benoit’s Funeral Scheduled
December 29, 2016
LA QUINTA, Calif – A funeral Mass for Supervisor John J. Benoit will be held at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, January 10 at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in La Quinta. A reception at St. Francis will immediately follow the funeral.
A rosary will be said at 6:00 p.m. Monday, January 9 at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, 47-225 Washington St., La Quinta. Public viewing will be available from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday.
Benoit, whose public service spanned a lifetime and helped shape issues statewide, passed away Monday evening at his Bermuda Dunes home. He had been battling pancreatic cancer.
Benoit, 64, spent decades serving as a member of the California Highway Patrol, a school board member, state lawmaker and county supervisor.
Benoit’s fellow supervisor, Vice Chairman John Tavaglione, has canceled the Riverside County Board of Supervisors’ January 10 meeting to accommodate the funeral.
“We are devastated by this loss,” Tavaglione said. “John was dedicated to the Coachella Valley and to the residents he served. For him, problems and challenges were simply opportunities to work with people on all sides and develop real solutions. I will miss him terribly as a friend and colleague, but his loss to the community is incalculable.”
“We are all saddened by the passing of our brother, Chairman John Benoit,” said Supervisor Marion Ashley. “His legacy of achievement and care for the County of Riverside and the Fourth District are well-known, and his many accomplishments are lasting. Our hearts go out to his family, staff and friends.”
Benoit represented the Inland Empire and the Coachella and Palo Verde valleys during a period of tremendous growth. His legacy is visible throughout the community, from establishing the CHP’s permanent air operations unit in the Coachella Valley, to his role in developing the University of California, Riverside, School of Medicine and Eagle Canyon Dam.
Benoit’s 45 years of public service helped strengthen the local economy, protect neighborhoods from crime, improve transportation systems and expand access to health care in eastern Riverside County.
His vision helped craft a county solar policy that benefits communities near massive solar plants. He helped ensure that $51 million in Sentinel air-quality improvement funds came back to the Coachella Valley to help pave dirt roads, put air-filtration systems in classrooms, and increase the number of cleaner fuel school buses and vehicles. Under Benoit’s watchful eye, eastern Coachella Valley communities saw many new county investments and services, including the Mecca Comfort Station for farm workers.
Among Benoit’s proudest accomplishments were closing Duroville, a dilapidated mobile home park where egregious living conditions existed for years, and releasing funds from the state to relocate 181 families from Duroville into safe housing.
Benoit was instrumental in redirecting plans for county jail expansion from the Whitewater area near Palm Springs. The East County Detention Center, currently under construction in Indio, is driving nearly a half-billion dollars in public safety and infrastructure investments to improve community safety, create hundreds of construction jobs and generate new business opportunities downtown.
In recent years, Benoit also focused on the Salton Sea, health care, affordable housing and transportation. Benoit partnered with the county health system to improve health services in the eastern Coachella Valley and began laying a foundation for future parks in North Shore, Thermal, and Oasis, the latter of which opened a soccer field in September 2016.
After graduating from Notre Dame High School in Riverside, Benoit began his career with the Corona Police Department. His 31 years in law enforcement included 29 years with the California Highway Patrol. In the CHP, he worked patrol in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Bakersfield. Benoit attended the FBI National Academy and served as a volunteer fire captain with the Sunset-Whitney Fire Department. In 1988, he made the Coachella Valley his home when he was promoted to commander of the California Highway Patrol’s Indio Station.
Long active in community service organizations, Benoit served on the Desert Sands Unified School Board, was elected to three terms in the California State Assembly from 2002 to 2008, and served in the California State Senate in 2008-2018. As a state lawmaker, he had 40 pieces of legislation signed into law, including the landmark “Aryanna’s Law” to protect children in daycare centers.
Following the death of his friend and mentor, Supervisor Roy Wilson, Benoit was appointed to the Board of Supervisors in 2009. He was elected to a second four-year term in 2014. Benoit’s Fourth Supervisorial District covers the eastern two-thirds of the county, stretching from Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs, south to the Salton Sea and east to Blythe and the Colorado River.
While working for the Highway Patrol and raising his family, he earned three degrees at night: an associate’s degree from Riverside City College, a bachelor of science degree in public safety from Cal State, Los Angeles, and a master's degree in public administration from Cal State, San Bernardino. Spanish-language immersion programs in Mexico and Costa Rica helped him develop bilingual skills to better serve the Spanish-speaking residents in Riverside County’s most diverse district.
Benoit considered his greatest blessings to be the love and support of Sheryl, his wife of 38 years, and his family, which includes daughter, Sarah; a son, Benjamin (wife Jaimie); brothers Mark and Paul; and grandchildren Abrielle and Nick.
Benoit was a United Way of the Desert board member since 1989, a member and past president of the Indio Rotary, and a committed parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. A Renaissance man, he was a longtime ham radio operator, aviator, avid reader and a patent holder, and an enthusiast of space exploration and technology.
In honor of Supervisor Benoit, the American flag, the state flag and the POW/MIA flag will be flown at half-staff at all county-owned and leased facilities until January 10.
In lieu of flowers, the Benoit family is requesting that donations be made to the United Way of the Desert, P.O. Box 13210, Palm Desert, CA 92255.
The Desert Independent extends its heartfelt sympathies to the family and staff of Supervisor John Benoit.
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