H. Spees, Fresno community advocate and former Mayoral contender, dies at 70

The pastor and community advocate sought to lead through empathy while seeking to make Fresno a better place to live.

Harold “H” Spees, a Fresno pastor, community advocate, and former Mayoral candidate, passed away Friday after suffering a severe head injury due to a fall while traveling in Florida.

Spees served two Mayors as a senior advisor, with particular emphasis on addressing the city’s homelessness crisis.


The rise of a local leader: Spees was known for his work to improve communities going through deep challenges. He had a unique ability to make others feel seen and heard, and he spent his lifetime helping people in their time of need.

  • Spees grew up in Los Angeles, but his work took him out of state to help improve communities.
  • Moving to Fresno in the 1990s, he became a senior health administrator with the Fresno County Department of Public Health.
  • That work launched his decades-long mission to help communities in Fresno.
  • He would serve as a pastor at Fresno’s Northwest Church before taking his community advocacy to the ballot box.

Recapturing “the soul of Fresno”: In 2016, Spees vied for Fresno’s open Mayoral seat, competing against then-Fresno City Councilman Lee Brand and then-Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea.

  • During his candidacy, he would argue that Fresno was “losing its soul,” amid soaring violence and an uneven economic recovery.
  • Spees would finish the 2016 June primary third, with Brand and Perea advancing to a run-off later won by Brand.
  • Spees would support Brand’s candidacy. Following the election, Brand tapped Spees to serve as his Director of Strategic Initiatives.
  • In 2021, upon the transition to Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer, Spees was tasked with tackling the homelessness crisis in Fresno as director of Housing and Homelessness Services.

What they’re saying: Upon the Friday night news of Spees’ passing, both Fresno Mayors for whom the late pastor served issued statements of condolences.

  • “H was humble, patient, generous, and an inspiration to those of us fortunate enough to have known him. Our friendship transcended other parts of our lives,” Brand said via Facebook. “We came together at a critical time in our lives with the same goal to make Fresno a better place. History will be the judge of that. But what is certain; I am a better person for having such a wonderful friend. I will miss him.”
  • “My heart is broken over the loss of my dear friend and a long time pillar in this community, H Spees,” Dyer said in a statement on Facebook. “H has been a trusted friend and confidant of mine for more the 30 years. He has always been there for me and Diane especially in some of our darkest days. H was not only a friend, but a loyal and dedicated employee. He had a heart for the homeless and was the very reason why Project Off-Ramp was so successful.”
  • According to Spees’ family, an education scholarship will be established to continue Spees’ legacy “of care for vulnerable people.”
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