A SV Talk With Chuck Reed, Mayor of San Jose – Leading Silicon Valley’s Largest and US 10th Largest City

Reed8x10 SVT: As Mayor, what accomplishments are you most proud of?

MR: When I ran for Mayor, I ran on a platform of honesty, fiscal responsibility, and open government. Those have remained my focus throughout my tenure.

During my first term, we successfully implemented the Reed Reforms, which allow residents to know more about the workings of their government by requiring greater disclosure by elected and appointed officials, by toughening restrictions on lobbyists, and by increasing the role that residents play in the budget process and San José government. We also launched the Green Vision for San José, an ambitious 10-point plan to invigorate the economy and improve the environment, and as of 2012, have more than 10,000 clean tech jobs in the city.

In my second term, the City Council implemented much-needed fiscal reforms to solve the City’s enduring budget problems. In 2012, nearly 70% of San Jose voters approved a comprehensive set of pension reforms that will protect the long-term health of the City’s retirement plans and generate the savings necessary to begin restoring core services to the community. These decisions were difficult, but they were necessary to prevent fiscal disaster. They also allowed us to avoid passing significant costs to our children and grandchildren.

Now after a decade of budget cuts, we have an opportunity to restore police services, bring new jobs to San José, and begin to restore core services.

SVT: What issues are there still important to you? 4-As Mayor, what would you still like to see happen?

MR: My top priority is restoring capacity in the Police Department as the City emerges from a decade of budget deficits.

While the San Jose Police Department has some of the best officers in the country, a decade of spiraling costs, caused primarily by skyrocketing retirement costs, have left the department understaffed and reduced its ability to respond to, investigate and prevent crimes. From FY 2001-02 to FY 2011-12, the San Jose Police Department was forced to eliminate almost 400 positions from its workforce – including 300 sworn police officer positions – even though the City increased the Police Department budget by nearly $100 million (view the chart).

Due to the tough, but necessary, decisions made by the City Council (including pay cuts and pension reforms), the City of San Jose has been able to avoid further cuts to police staffing and is now in a position to begin restoring critical police department services.

SVT: Looking back, what have you learned from being Mayor?

MR: That you can never stop thinking about the budget.

SVT: What would you like to do once you leave office?

MR: I plan to spend more time with my family and return to practicing law. I will not be running for elected office again.

SVT: Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school and what did you study?

MR: I grew up in the small town of Garden City, Kansas. I left home for the U.S. Air Force Academy, served in the Air Force, then went on to obtain a Master’s in Public Affairs at Princeton University and a law degree from Stanford.

SVT: Who have been your role models and who has inspired you in politics and life itself?

MR: The three Js: Jesus, Jefferson, and JFK.

SVT: What did you enjoy most about being Mayor and what will you miss?

MR: Being Mayor is a great job, and the work of being Mayor brings me into contact with people throughout our diverse community. I’ve had the chance to cut the ribbon on new branch libraries and see children check out their very first library books, to meet young men and women who have turned their lives around thanks to programs of the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force, to experience and learn about cultural traditions that I wouldn’t have otherwise. That’s what I’ll miss most.

SVT: How do you feel now as the end of your Mayor career is about to come to a close?

MR: As much as I love being the Mayor of San Jose, it is a difficult job and requires a lot of time. I am looking forward to having more time to spend with my wife Paula and our children and grandchildren. I am looking forward to having a more normal life.

SVT: From all your experience, what would you recommend for the next Mayor that you think would be helpful?

MR: Learn to say no to your friends. Tell the truth. Place service above self.

SVT: Looking ahead, if you could wave a magic wand for San Jose and Silicon Valley, what would you like to see?

MR: I would like to see:

  • A city that is on sound fiscal footing, that is again the safest big city in America, that has a fully staffed police force and libraries that are open full-time again.
  • Future City Councils hold firm on protecting our employment lands (from being converted to housing) and working to improve San Jose’s job/housing ratio.
  • The achievement gap between low-income and wealthy children disappear so that children from all of San Jose’s diverse neighborhoods can grow up and realize the opportunities that our country and this valley provide.
  • A valley that remains the Innovation Center of the World.

SVT: Did you think you would be the Mayor of a large city when you were a teenager? 18-If you could give a 16 year old advice – what would it be?

MR: I never imagined I’d be where I am now. I grew up in a small farming community and my parents hadn’t had educational opportunities. I worked my first job, sweeping floors, in elementary school and soon after was digging ditches, shoveling gravel, and working in the fields. It was hard work, and it pushed me to focus on my education.

This is the advice I have for young people: Don’t let external forces, life circumstances, or other people limit you. This country offers tremendous opportunities. Take advantage of them. Dream big, set goals, focus, and study hard. Most importantly, if you’ve gotten off track, there are resources and means to regain direction. The Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force is one such resource that has had great success helping young adults turn their lives around. And when you achieve success, don’t forget where you came from.

SVT: Can you name (3) inventions you’re most grateful for?

MR: Electricity, clean water, and the smartphone.

SVT: What’s your favorite restaurant for dinner?

MR: San Jose has so many great restaurants. It really depends on the mood I’m in and if I need to get back to the office for a Council meeting.

SVT: What’s the best piece of advice anyone has given you?

MR: Curt Shipley, my high school basketball coach (Kansas state champions in 1966), taught me the power of a team focusing on a goal, working hard, and not caring about who scores the most points.

SVT: What’s the toughest part of your job?

MR: Having to say no to nice people who are doing good things. There isn’t enough time in the day to attend every festival, celebration, or special event that the Mayor gets invited to.

SVT: What do you do in your spare time?

MR: Bicycle the creek trails with my wife Paula.

SVT: What do you like most about living in the Bay Area?

  1. The climate and natural beauty. San Jose has some of the best weather in the world – and plenty of trails for hiking and biking, easy access to the coast and the mountains.
  2. The people. Not only is Silicon Valley a global center of innovation, we are home to people from all around the world who focus on what we have in common rather than our differences. We share our traditions with the broader community through food and festivals that make this a vibrant place to call home.
  3. SVT: Do you have a hidden talent?

    MR: Few people know that I can sew and did, in my younger days, make some of Paula’s maternity dresses. I can also do some rough carpentry when needed (like recently building my grandson a treehouse).

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