What’s former Sen. Jim Beall eyeing next?
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and state Senator Jim Beall are pictured in this file photo.

Four months after terming out of the California Legislature, former Sen. Jim Beall is now eyeing a local seat.

But it’s not the San Jose mayor’s race — a rumor that has followed Beall around for months. He is considering running for a seat on the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s board of directors.

“As an urban planner, city councilmember, county supervisor, assemblymember and senator, I think I can add my experience to the water board that’s different than what others can offer,” Beall told San José Spotlight. “I can help with their long-range strategic planning to provide clean water for their constituents, deal with the drought and especially with state and federal government relations.”

If elected, Beall would replace Linda LeZotte in District 4, whose term ends in Dec. 2022.

Beall said he’s always had an interest in clean creeks and water management and brings a wide breadth of experience to the job.

Although he hasn’t made a final decision, Beall told San Jose Spotlight he’s looking at running for the seat “very closely.” In fact, for the last three months he has been reviewing the water district’s meeting agendas and budgets.

Beall has been in politics for 40 years. He entered public office at the age of 28 and served as a San Jose councilmember, Santa Clara County supervisor, state assemblymember and senator.

Beall said he brings “great strength” and new ideas to the board, including plans to house the homeless living along the creeks and financing infrastructure, transportation and water projects. He said he would ensure projects were on time and on budget.

Terry Christensen, SJSU political science professor emeritus, who served as Beall’s faculty advisor when he was an undergraduate and has been following Beall’s career, said he would be a formidable candidate and an activist board member, if elected.

“What’s always been impressive about Jim in public office is that he’s always been attentive to the needs of his constituents, and his district…but he always sees the big picture, too,” Christensen said.

Beall said he cares about water conservation and tore up his lawn years ago to plant native species. A self-described conservationist, he led an annual cleanup effort along Los Gatos Creek for about 20 years. Beall said he is interested in recycling water and climate change issues.

“We have to adjust our thinking and planning and listen to new ideas and approaches,” he said.

Beall said the city’s General Plan in the 70s and 80s to create parks and trails along creeks remains unfinished. He said with sheltering in place, it’s especially important now to take walks along creeks to keep healthy. 

He said the water district is too isolated and needs to work more closely with other government agencies. He would like it to correct the errors which led to the Coyote Creek flood. And as an advocate for social issues, he also sees homelessness, affordable housing and racial equity as issues the water district should address.

“The water district can be profoundly impactful in some of those areas,” Beall said, “Although, of course, its meat and potatoes is to maintain the creeks and clean water.”

Beall said he’s been calling key people to ask what they think about him running for the seat, but says he first needs to convince his wife.

“She likes the idea that it’s local,” Beall said. “She’s happy about that. Very happy.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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