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.