The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors shifts a bit more to the center with Susan Ellenberg’s decisive victory as an independent over South Bay Labor’s shining hope to succeed Ken Yeager, terming-out San Jose Councilman Don Rocha.
How Ellenberg’s presence impacts the five-member board’s approach to issues such as the housing crisis, union contracts, jail reforms and core county services will come to light as the dynamics take shape in 2019. But the blurred political lines will likely incentivize cooperation now that one of the South Bay’s most formidable labor leaders, Supervisor Cindy Chavez, no longer holds sway over a reliable voting bloc.
“They spent a lot of money to not have me in this seat,” says Ellenberg, a San Jose Unified trustee and former attorney. “But I think collaboration is essential. If I could promote that, it will be a good thing.”
As she sees it, her transition has already set a collaborative tone by working alongside Supervisor Ken Yeager’s staff as he winds down the end of his second term. Yeager Chief of Staff Jim Weston and Policy Director Brian Darrow will stay on the job for a month after Ellenberg’s swearing in to help her and her District 4 office find its footing. Ellenberg’s campaign manager, Angelica Ramos-Allen, will lead the transition and assume Darrow’s position.
For chief of staff, the supervisor-elect hired her former Silicon Valley Organization colleague, Derrick Seaver, who has spent the past year as policy director of the San Jose Downtown Association.
Seaver’s hire could be seen as a way of reaching out to the business community, though Ellenberg said her reasons were more straightforward than that. “Derrick has a lot of policy experience,” she says. “We work really well together, which for me was first and foremost. Plus, he’s totally on board with my vision to help children and families.”