Ex-San Jose councilman leaves Santa Clara County for Valley Water

With just six months left in office, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese is losing his chief of staff.

Cortese’s top legislative leader, former San Jose Councilmember Don Rocha, is leaving his office for a job at the Santa Clara Valley Water District. He’ll serve as a supervising program administrator in government relations for the district.

Policy and Outreach Director Tara Sreekrishnan will replace Rocha as chief of staff, Cortese said Friday.

Rocha called the decision to leave Cortese’s office “truly bittersweet” in a Facebook post announcing his new job.

“Once more, I want to personally thank Dave for his support and the incredible offer he made to me to continue my path of public service in his office,” Rocha wrote in the post. “Given that I wholeheartedly believe that he is destined to be our next State Senator, I did a lot of soul-searching and determined that Sacramento was not in the cards for me, being close to friends – and more importantly my family – means too much to me.

It is truly bittersweet to announce that I am moving on from Supervisor Dave Cortese’s office as his Chief of Staff, and…

Posted by Don Rocha on Friday, May 8, 2020

 

Rocha couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Cortese said Friday he’s most proud of Rocha’s efforts “to build up our staff through training and establishing new routines” to bring his office up to the highest quality in constituent response.

“We were the first elective office I know of to rotate two staff in each day during COVID and others on remote work protocol to ensure customer service and necessary information would get out to save lives,” Cortese told San José Spotlight. “Don spent most days in the building regardless of who else was on schedule or risk to himself.”

The former District 9 councilmember took the job in Cortese’s office in Jan. 2019 after losing his bid to replace Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager. Rocha also served as Cortese’s chief of staff when the supervisor sat on the San Jose City Council. Rocha replaced Cortese’s former chief of staff, Mike Donohoe, who retired in 2019.

As he took the reins, Rocha said he’d focus on the county’s financial health to help protect families from losing services like health care and housing, especially in the wake of the Trump administration’s policies, an economic downturn and potential crash in the housing market.

“No one knows what the White House or Congress is going to do,” Rocha told San José Spotlight at the time.

Cortese previously said Rocha is “extremely competent” and familiar with the issues facing the county.

After serving 12 years on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and four years as president, Cortese is running for state Senate to replace Sen. Jim Beall in District 15. He secured nearly 34 percent of the vote in the March primary in a 7-way race and will face off with attorney Ann Ravel in November.

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