County Exec’s New Special Assistant Could Spell Changes

Political spectators were a bit mystified as word leaked that Jeff Smith, the top exec for the County of Santa Clara, tabbed Steve Preminger to be his “special assistant,” a.k.a. “right-hand dude,” a.k.a. “wait, what?” Preminger has been a longtime strategist for the South Bay Labor Council’s nonprofit arm, Working Partnerships USA, and he also chairs the local Democratic Party, which is more or less the free-hanging appendage of organized labor. So why would Smith make such a politically loaded appointment? At first blush it might seem county supervisor Cindy Chavez, former head of the SBLC and WPUSA, put the screws to Smith—who reports only to the Board of Supervisors—and that she’s slowly introducing her prior team into bureaucratic folds. Former SBLC spokesflack Stacey Hendler Ross, who once put hands on a San Jose Inside reporter in attempt to physically throw her out of a labor election party, just got hired by VTA, whose board Chavez sits on as vice chair. But that’s probably giving Chavez too much credit, as Smith may have a different goal: phasing out the mostly superfluous Office of Public Affairs. Led by communications director Gwen Mitchell, who received an absurd $223,000 in total compensation last year, the public affairs gang has a staff of six that does little more than take messages for Mitchell and send out press releases, many of which marked URGENT only to note that the county is celebrating the 23rd annual World Refugee Day, or that food can go bad if left out in the summer heat. Seriously, those are two missives from just the last couple months. Preminger’s decision to join the county is not void of irony, as word is he left an organization that fights for better worker pay and benefits because WPUSA and the SBLC don’t offer good pay and benefits. Preminger said he is proud of his past work and any concerns about his political affiliations affecting his new job are specious. “Watch out how I carry myself,” he said.

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  1. Probably good news for Dems. Preminger’s been in the job far too long and behaved like a czar instead of a leader.

  2. Smith’s decision to appoint such a divisive and “politically-charged” figure as Preminger spells bad news for the citizens of Santa Clara County and advocates for good government. As for Stacy Hendler-Ross — her track record at SBLC speaks for itself; attacking Council candidate Manh Nguyen on the SBLC blog as being a “hypocrite” for referencing his children in a mailer and saying that “leadership doesn’t start at his home” because he is separated from his wife, only to claim after Nguyen’s victory that “political insiders” knew from the start he would win. If she thought it was a good idea to make vicious personal attacks when she knew that they wouldn’t have any effect, how can we expect her to make objective and rational decisions on behalf of the servant? How do the dues-paying union members feel about their “leadership” essentially admitting that they attacked an incoming Councilmember for reasons wholly unrelated to policy?

  3. Preminger looks even more smug and self-satisfied than Gundry. Fly-boy—how about letting us know how much Preminger will be paid as a “special assistant?”

  4. Not sure what the problem is here. Steve Preminger is a smart professional committed to his community who has dedicated his career to making lives better in Santa Clara County.

      • And Xavier Campos, and Eric Hernandez, and the rest of the corrupt goons who keep telling themselves that the ends justify the means until even true blue Democrats are ashamed to be a part of the County party.

    • > Not sure what the problem is here. Steve Preminger is a smart professional committed to his community who has dedicated his career to making lives better in Santa Clara County.

      His resume says he is a partisan Democrat.

      To what “community” is he committed?

  5. Local government does not need yet another highly paid executive who does little more than push paper up line and down line and attend meetings. Local government needs more line workers who actually do things that make a positive difference for taxpayers.

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