The Silicon Valley Organization (SVO)—enmeshed in a fight for its future sparked by its use of a racist image in a political campaign—has named veteran executive Bob Linscheid as its CEO while it looks for a permanent replacement for fired executive Matt Mahood.
Linscheid, 67, lives in Danville and runs a consulting firm specializing in public relations and management for economic development organizations and trade associations.
According to his LinkedIn profile, he previously served as chief executive of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce as well as three smaller Northern California business associations in Chico, Walnut Creek and Antioch. Currently, Linscheid chairs the California State University Board of Trustees, where he has served since 2005. He is the recipient of Rotary District 5160’s Humanitarian of the Year Award.
Linscheid said his first order of business will be “doing a lot of listening” and getting to know the board, staff and community.
He said he’s no stranger to diversity, equity and inclusion issues that arose during his leadership roles at CSU and the San Francisco chamber. He plans to address the need for meaningful organizational change, saying that he plans “not to just sprinkle DEI [diversity, equity, inclusion] in, but bake it in. I believe we can do that.”
“I’m really grateful that they’re taking such an aggressive role in confronting this issue,” he told San Jose Inside. “This is a golden opportunity to figure out this path for reconciliation. Racial injustice is happening everywhere. It’s something that is very concerning. And you tack on the health issue and the economics of the health issue, and they seem to be intertwined. Having a fresh pair of eyes and ears added to the equation, my hope is that it’s beneficial to the process.”
Linscheid disagrees with calls from outside the organization to dissolve SVO in the wake of the posting of the racially charged campaign photograph and said everyone he’s spoken with so far believes a business voice is critical in the community.
“Everyone thinks we need an SVO and chamber. If we disband the organization, where’s the support for the business?” he asked, stressing the urgency of advocating on behalf of small and medium businesses that are struggling to survive the Covid-19 shutdowns.
“Yesterday, we had 17 chambers and 800 letters in support of small businesses brought to the [Santa Clara County] Board of Supervisors,” he said. “We didn’t do it alone, but if we didn’t have the SVO, I dare say there wouldn’t have been that coordinated effort.”
Linscheid said he believes that local government support for small and medium businesses during the pandemic needs to be part of the equation.
“We’re going to see if Congress comes out of its coma,” he said, adding, “When business is successful, everybody thrives.”
The SVO announced the CEO hire this morning along with a summary of findings from the investigation into the controversial attack ad.
One of the findings unearthed by Jen Cornell, of CDF Labor Law, was that an employee was responsible for posting the image that sparked public backlash. SVO officials previously blamed an outside web administrator.
Click here to read the organization’s statement in full.
This article has been updated to include quotes from Bob Linscheid.