LONGTIME SILICON VALLEY labor leader Cindy Chavez may be leaving the Bay Area for an executive role down south — a shocking move for the local powerhouse.
Chavez, who represents District 2 on the Board of Supervisors, is being considered for the San Diego County chief administrative officer position which oversees day-to-day operations of the county. The prospect of her move could close the chapter on Chavez’s more than 20-year political career in the South Bay.
“Since the mayoral election I’ve been contacted by recruiters from several organizations,” Chavez wrote in a statement. “I am honored to be considered for these substantial opportunities to continue to serve. I will be making any future decisions about what’s next with my family.”
“I don’t know who would sort of see themselves as the next Cindy Chavez.”Garrick Percival, SJSU political science professor
Garrick Percival, political science professor at San Jose State University, said Chavez’s departure would leave a huge void in South Bay politics, especially in the labor field. He said she is a fundamental part of the labor movement’s recent political success.
“Often when you have someone who’s had such a big presence, it’s sort of multiple people who fill that gap,” Percival told San José Spotlight. “I don’t know who would sort of see themselves as the next Cindy Chavez.”
He said Chavez’s legacy would be defined by her advocacy for progressive policies before and during her political career.
“Whether it’s through criminal justice reform, jail reform, housing or transportation,” Percival said.”Her career here has really touched on a lot of the major policy issues that sort of define our community and she has left her mark.”
Mayoral aspirations unfulfilled
Chavez unsuccessfully ran for the San Jose mayoral seat in November, but her political career goes way back. Chavez won a seat on the San Jose City Council in 1998 and served eight years. The council appointed her to be vice mayor during her last year before she unsuccessfully ran for the city’s top seat against Chuck Reed in 2006. She then served as executive director of the South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships USA from 2009 to 2013.
Over the course of her career, Chavez has won support from former President Bill Clinton, Congresswomen Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo, as well as former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta. She was endorsed by dozens of local progressive leaders and was even able to reach across the aisle and snag the support of more moderate elected officials.
Voters elected Chavez as District 2 county supervisor in 2013, which represents East San Jose and downtown. She terms out in 2024 and has been rumored to run for the mayoral seat again.
Percival said if Chavez gets the San Diego job, it’s a clear sign she won’t be eyeing another mayoral run.
“She’s kind of at this juncture where you have to decide whether you’re gonna run, gear up for another campaign or just going to go a different route,” Percival said. “But she is certainly well equipped to go into an (executive) role like that.”
Waiting on San Diego
Who will fill the $300,000 annual salaried San Diego position will be determined by San Diego County supervisors in May. This week, the supervisors were set to rehire Helen N. Robbins-Meyer, the former chief administrative officer who held the seat since 2012, to serve in the interim.
San Diego County spokesperson Tammy Glenn said the county is still in the hiring process and could not provide additional details about who is being considered for the seat.
“There isn’t anything to share publicly at this point,” Glenn told San José Spotlight.
The news was first reported by La Prensa San Diego, which wrote that Chavez appears to be a leading contender. The vote for Chavez’s approval could hang on whether San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher is able to weather calls to resign amid a sexual abuse scandal. Fletcher amended his resignation date to May 15, which would allow him to vote for the new chief administration officer, the news organization reported. His wife, Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, heads the California Labor Federation and is a political ally of Chavez.
Councilmember Dev Davis, who is ideologically opposed to Chavez, said her move would be a loss to the region.
“Cindy is a very collaborative leader,” Davis told San José Spotlight. “While I hope we can continue to work together on behalf of our residents in San Jose in the years to come, I know she will be successful wherever she goes.”
Contact Jana Kadah at email@example.com or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.