Three-and-a-half decades after co-founding the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, Ken Yeager has decided to call off his bid for state Senate to take the helm as the first-ever executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group’s philanthropic arm.
The BAYMEC Community Foundation, which spun off from the parent organization in 2013, announced the hire Wednesday, Yeager’s first day on the job. “I’m delighted to be taking on this new endeavor,” the recently termed-out Santa Clara County supervisor said in a press release. “There is so much that needs to be done.”
This particular endeavor may be new to Yeager, but the cause of advancing queer and trans rights has defined his career from the launch of BAYMEC to his election as the first openly gay elected in the South Bay to his tenure on the county Board of Supervisors.
“We are very excited to have … Yeager on board,” BAYMEC Community Foundation Board President James Gonzales said. “We see it as a continuation of the great job he has been going in the community over the past 35 years. Frankly, we can’t think of anyone who knows these issues as well as he does.”
Yeager, 66, who also teaches political science part-time at San Jose State, said leading BAYMEC will allow him to continue the work he championed as a county elected. “There is so much that needs to be done,” he said.
For one thing, Yeager said he can keep working with local high schools and colleges on developing LGBTQ-informed curriculum and policies. He also wants to support the county’s Getting to Zero campaign to stamp out HIV, an initiative he lobbied for as supervisor. Another priority: building gay-friendly senior housing, something he started before leaving office.
The elder statesman said he’s equally committed to ensuring that the county’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs—another achievement from his time in office—remains adequately funded and staffed. Same for two other programs he fought for: an LGBTQ homeless shelter and Gender Health Center at Valley Health Center.
“There is no shortage of work that needs to be done,” Yeager said. “I hope the [BAYMEC] foundation gets to the point soon where he can open an office and be a place where interns and volunteers can work on issues of concern to our community.”
Though he won’t rule out a run for office in the future, Yeager said he plans to commit to his work with the foundation because it’s so intertwined with his legacy.
The career public servant launched the PAC’s parent nonprofit in 1984 with fellow queer activist Wiggsy Siversten. Eight years later, Yeager made history as the first gay man to win elected office in Silicon Valley when he won a seat on the San Jose-Evergreen Community College Board of Trustees. He’d go on to serve on the San Jose City Council for two terms and another two on the county Board of Supes.
Siversten applauded Yeager’s decision to return to his roots.
“Ken is the one person who can effectively bridge all the community organizations and leaders to city and county services,” she said. “I’m glad we’re not losing him to Sacramento, at least not for the time being.”
Yeager’s exit from the race for state Sen. Jim Beall’s District 15 seat narrows the field to his erstwhile county board colleague Supervisor Dave Cortese, San Jose Councilman Johnny Khamis, former Assemblywoman Nora Campos and former FEC chair Ann Ravel.