Mike Potter’s Move to Cisco

This past summer, Cisco Systems, the biggest employer in Silicon Valley,  announced plans to build 2.5 million square feet of office space on 140 acres near its Tasman Avenue campus over the next 20 years. To help grease the skids with the city on this and other projects and initiatives, the San Jose–based network giant has hired longtime political aide Mike Potter.

The local government affairs position is clearly a step up for Potter, who has pretty much had the same job for 15 years: He cut his political teeth working in the district office of the much-loved state Sen. Byron Sher back in the mid-’90s, and has essentially the same gig now, working for Assemblymember
Joe Coto. (Potter’s better known as the husband of Cindy Chavez—the cheerful-yet-combative South Bay Labor Council chief and former vice mayor.)

While there’s no mystery as to why Potter would take the job, it’s seems like a curious choice for Cisco. Corporate types do not generally have much tolerance for unnecessary political controversy or feather-ruffling. And at this moment in San Jose history, the labor camp, under Chavez and political director Bob Brownstein, has forcefully driven a wedge into City Hall. Also, according to a number of sources, Potter has not quite forgiven Mayor Chuck Reed for handily beating his wife at the polls four years ago.

Fly has a difficult time imagining Potter being very effective in getting anything from the mayor or his allies on the council. But Jim Cunneen, the former assemblymember who later went to work for Cisco, says Potter’s the perfect man for the job. “He’s a policy creature, not a political creature,” Cunneen says. Perhaps proving the adage that opposites attract.

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.


  1. Wait, this isn’t the Chamber of Commerce newsletter?  Because when I read “…the labor camp, under Chavez and political director Bob Brownstein, has forcefully driven a wedge into City Hall” I think maybe Metro is just the Chamber newsletter with better graphics and way more pot club and phone-sex ads.

    Still a funny rag, though!  Just not intentionally.

  2. “Fly has a difficult time imagining Potter being very effective in getting anything from the mayor or his allies on the council. ” 

    Fly is again clueless about how political power is gained and used

    Potter wasn’t hired to get anything from Reed or his allies but to get South Bay Labor elected Council members votes while Chamber will line up Reed and his ( Sam, Pete etc )allies votes

    Less expensive to have Potter as Cisco employee ( like Cunneen was ) than as lobbyist / consultant while using Cunneen x Chamber /Cisco now with ” CALIFORNIA STRATEGIES, LLC is a full-service public affairs consulting firm dedicated to successfully navigating clients through the myriad pathways of California’s political, legislative, regulatory, and media environments.”

    ” Jim Cunneen pairs his executive leadership at two Fortune 500 companies and the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce with his service in the California legislature to provide political, regulatory and public affairs counsel to California Strategies’ clients. “

    Divide and Conquer – ” A combination of political, and economic strategies that aim to gain and maintain power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into chunks that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. “

    Divide and Conquer is used all the time by housing developers and corporations when they hire different political lobbyists to work both sides of politics to go to City Hall for votes / approvals

  3. Used all the time…. Like Chuck Reed and the Council hiring reitred Deputy Sheriffs Association President and former PORAC Director Jose Salcido to a $170k/year job as “Law Enforcement Liaison” to assist them in screwing police officers out of jobs.  Nice going Jose, your brother John is spinning in his grave.

    • Divide and Conquer II,
      Your cowardly, anonymous post is just shameful. It is a low blow that is completely uncalled for and more fiction than fact. 

      Try getting your facts straight. Jose makes $120K not $170K. He works almost 60 hours a week. Try dividing 50-60 hours a week, by $120K, and you’ll see it doesn’t come out to much.

      He isn’t a “Law Enforcement Liaison”; he’s the Mayor’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Outreach Senior Policy Advisor. He was hired by the Mayor to assist in bringing the community closer to Law Enforcement because the Mercury News, Raj and his buddies have spent years now bashing and spreading misinformation about the SJPD on a regular basis.

      If you really knew Jose you’d know that he loves the men and women of the SJPD. He would never take a job to hurt anyone in Law Enforcement, quite the contrary. He has spent many hours defending the PD to community activists and cop haters. Jose has attended every single community I have on the topic of Law Enforcement. He works hard to explain PD policy and procedures to the public. Of course if your cowardly butt ever attended one of these meetings you’d know that. 

      Jose is a fair, decent, and honest man who doesn’t deserve to be spoken about like this. I’m sure his brother John would be and is very proud of Jose.

  4. Jim was and still is the Valley’s best representative.  Principled, with a balanced perspective and always a kind word.  He knows how to get things done.

    He would have been a great Congressman had Honda’s camp not dumped millions in Hit Pieces and smear Campaigning.  They made Karl Rove look like an amateur.  In the end, Cunneen stayed above the fray, and he continues to be the moderate voice needed here in the Valley.

    Run, Jim, Run!

  5. Uh, sorry, San Joser, but Cunneen is more political than principled these days.  He is afterall a lobbyist who has to remain close to Labor in Sacramento for his state clients and Labor in San Jose for his local clients.  As for his comments about Potter, anyone who knows Potter knows that he got and kept his jobs because of his wife.  To say Potter is a policy guy is an insult to policy guys.

  6. Potter was a district staffer.  People in the know, know that district staffer’s don’t do policy.  Typically, the denser of the staff members get assigned to the district as was the case with Potter.  He handled constituent requests and letters and drove the members around to events.  Not sure why Cisco didn’t know this.

    • I’ve always admired Cisco’s business sense.  Despite the economy downturn they’ve managed to stay solvent and prosper.  Thats why this hiring of Potter is so shocking.

      To say that Potter’s wife is surrounded by controversy is a gross understatement.  Everyone in San Jose can see (by the labor heavy handed tactics) that she and those around her still carry a heavy chip on the shoulder/grudge about the lost Mayoral election.  Of course she takes NO responsibility for her own misdeeds and lack of judgement for loyalty to former Mayor Ron Gonzalez. 

      The city of San Jose has been beholden to Chavez and her labor bullies for too long.  If Cisco is getting in bed with them via a relationship with Potter as their point man I hope they prepare for the city’s favor to turn against them.  Didn’t they learn anything from the disastrous Measure V & W anti campaigns the labor heavy camps tried to run?  People are tired of that group and cannot afford their shady-all-for-us deals.  If Cisco puts the fox in charge of the hen house prepare for the consequences.  No more good favor from the people for Cisco. 

      Come on John Chambers, I know you’re smarter than this!

  7. ” Not sure why Cisco didn’t know this. ” 

    Cisco and Cunneen think Potter is a pleasant policy and political lightweight who they are paying to get needed Council votes controlled by his wife Cindy, CEO South Bay Labor Council

    Nora and Neil want their own local front office person not Cindy’s husband  

    Watch for major 2011 surprises as SBLC power changes with people leaving because government employee uniona are upset after giving SBLC millions and getting weak 2010 candidate results, more government employee layoffs to pay for pensions, Measure V and W election defeats and city and county loss political power

  8. Mercury News has front page article demonstrating – More labor union pigs at public trough and their County Supervisor labor elected co conspirators allowing government employee double dipping

    Santa Clara County Fire Chief Ken Waldvogel will retire receiving and then come back collecting his full salary as consultant

    Why have a 4 highly paid Deputy Fire Chiefs ( Deputy Chief Hal Rooney,Support Services; Deputy Chief Donald F. Jarvis, Operations; Deputy Chief Kenneth R.
    Kehmna, Training; and Deputy Chief Dirk J. Mattern, Fire Prevention ) if none of them are qualified to act as Chief for a few months until new Chief is found ?

    If he was interested in public service he could delayed retirement or taken 10% + 90% retirement until new chief hired – But NO he gets consulting contract equal to his salary plus 90% retirement – Oink, Oink Oink


    Public has absolutely no trust in greedy millionaire government employees and the elected public officials who lack of integrity, honesty and doing public good rather than enriching themselves and getting elected with labor’s campaign contributions in political system that permits “legalized political bribery” and pay to play politics

  9. I find it very interesting that the Merc only covers Union members who retire and get a second job in government earning a fat wage. I’ve seen City Managers do this, and other top/City/government management officials do the exact same thing, but it doesn’t make the front page or on TV Stations everywhere.

    CEOs in private business do it, and no one takes an ad out in the paper bashing them. I consider this hype to be selective harassment by the media.

    BTW-The City of San Jose employs a lot of the Mercury News writers who were laid off by the paper. Where is that exposed in the media? Is that why the Merc has kept their news stories limited to the Unions and not to certain double dipping Council Members, or over spending by the Council? Hum…

    • I bet you can’t name more than one former Merc reporter currently employed by the city.  And the one who is there was a bulldog who was relentless in digging negative stories out of the documents in City Hall closets.

  10. Murky – Has political agenda which is anti San Jose Police and Fire so goes for easy sensational stories like $250,000 fire dept sick leave payout, police and fire retirement and consultant contracts like today’s SC County Fire Chief

    Weekly praise Murky’s politically favorite Council members with Herhold published comments like “particularly talented Sam Liccardo”  a take off on ” Talented Mr Ripley ” movie quote while attacking future political opponents after regular lunch and drinks with political kingmaker ex Mayor

    Interesting that Murky doesn’t talk about

    a) former Department Chiefs, Assistant City Managers and City Managers who collected big retirement and city consultant dollars

    b) tell public what city spends on required and needed city services while making downtown insiders, favorite community groups, ex city management officials and ex politicians richer while cutting services and more layoffs

    c) name political insiders who divert city budget millions to tax subsidies, no bid contracts, staff recommendations for Council policy exception approvals, bailouts and downtown money pit projects requiring more tax millions next year unless they are labor political opponents

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