On Cindy Chavez Leaving the SBLC

The 2012 election is barely over and already people are opining on who will contend for the Presidency in 2016 or who will be the next mayor of San Jose in 2014. Who will replace Supervisor George Shirakawa if he resigns?

Which brings us to the mental gymnastics some local pundits are making regarding recent changes at the South Bay Labor Council. Is Cindy Chavez running for Mayor? Is she positioning herself for Supervisor?

The simple truth is Chavez made the decision to leave the South Bay Labor Council and focus solely on Working Partnerships months ago. But due to her high profile status, she decided to wait until the November elections were over, so as not to disrupt the political campaigns she was trying to help.

Sometimes people in public life do things for altruistic reasons, sometimes leaders make decisions for just the reason they state in public.

Heading two diverse and large organizations at the same time takes a tremendous amount of bandwidth. Nobody works harder than Chavez, but she understands the benefit of separating the two organizations from a perception standpoint. More importantly, the life and success of the two organizations require two separate executives.

Chavez chose to lead Working Partnerships because, at her core, she is more interested in promoting public policy. She is also confident that the important political battles that lie ahead will be in good hands with Ben Field. While she understands the need to fight for her agenda, Chavez’s real genius is in building the coalitions necessary for long-term policy changes that improve the lives of working families.

As a wife and mother, Chavez served her time on the City Council and is the South Bay’s most visible leader for a local progressive agenda. She has built a strong team to carry on her legacy at the Labor Council.

A true leader builds sustainable organizations that empower new leaders to emerge without the cult of personality. Chavez’s departure embraces this concept. Ben Field, her SBLC successor, has been fully immersed in the organization. He has never been conflict adverse. He knows how to negotiate and has learned from Chavez how to be effective.

As Chavez moves full-time to Working Partnerships, the progressive agenda will be expanded. Free from the more political trappings of the council, she can focus on the issues she cares about most.

As for those who are looking for a cold calculation to political office, they clearly do not know or understand Cindy Chavez. Nobody knows more about the limitations of public office than her.

This reality will never suffice for those who insist that all people in public life are only interested in the next open office. But Chavez doesn’t seek to satisfy the cynics, she works to make her community a better place.

Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley who has worked with the South Bay Labor Council in the past.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. Isn’t she primarily responsible for the negativity and toxic nature of San Jose politics as many people have suggested?

    No offense, but her mayoral campaign wasn’t anything to be proud of and voters dumped her big time.

  2. Translation: Obviously revenues are falling from the declining ranks of public employees, so Chavez shifted the burden of her fat salary to Working Partnerships, which is funded by foundation grants rather than union dues.

    Somehow, Working Partnerships converts non-profit funds to political use, which is illegal, without getting prosecuted. Does anyone believe that Chavez, Brownstein, Preminger, et. al. are simply making policy… or are they trying to get candidates elected? Oh no, that would be illegal. So let’s call it “policy making.”

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