Mike Wasserman, president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, gave an inspirational State of the County address Tuesday. While talking about public safety he related the story of his mother being rush to the emergency room by local firefighters, who helped save her life.
It was a personal story that showed the role government plays and the everyday services that some people take for granted. The professional training and quick response time was the difference between life and death for his mother and many others in our community.
This recognition—that government does have an important role in our lives—sets Wasserman apart from many in the political party he is currently affiliated with. Wasserman acknowledged the important work government employees do everyday. He noted the work and collaboration that occurs with nonprofits that receive funding from county government—from direct-serve organizations, such as Community Solutions, to policy based non-profits like the Silicon Valley Council of Nonprofits. He stressed the importance of the safety net that the county provides. He is truly a compassionate moderate.
Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, introduced Wasserman. The symbolism was not lost on those in attendance, as Wasserman is a tireless advocate for Silicon Valley business interests. But that is not antithetical to supporting government. Government cannot provide needed services without a successful economy.
Wasserman noted that 75 percent of county funds comes from the state and federal government. As local revenue decreases, counties bear the burden of providing for those who have the least among us.
Wasserman has worked well with his Democratic colleagues on the Board, and he has championed the interests of his district, which is the largest in terms of geographical area, stretching from Los Gatos to Gilroy.
The problem, of course, is that, as a Republican, he suffers from the prejudice many of us have for his political party, which is anathema to progress at any level. He also suffers from being associated with a national party that recently censured former Presidential candidate John McCain for not being “conservative” enough. Last week, the lifelong Republican Lt. Governor of Nevada resigned from the party citing the rightwing shift that has driven many moderates out.
Silicon Valley has produced many fine Republican public servants, including former State Sen. Becky Morgan, former Assemblyman Jim Cunneen, Sheriff Laurie Smith and now Wasserman. These local Republicans are principled leaders, whose philosophy on issues you may not always agree with, but whose integrity and spirit of public service can never be challenged. More importantly, they will work in the best interests of their country, state and nation.
As usual Silicon Valley is a model for the rest of the nation.
Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley.