Here’s who San Jose’s mayor met with in his first weeks in office
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan looks out the window from the mayor's conference room on the 18th floor of City Hall on Jan. 2, 2023. Photo by Joseph Geha.

    Facing pressure to bring change to City Hall, San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan spent his first days in office establishing his administration, meeting with elected officials amid a historic storm and powerful developers and business leaders.

    Mahan, who is serving a limited two-year term, hit the ground running as he took office this month. His first two weeks were filled with onboarding meetings, community events and media interviews on atmospheric rivers—even on the weekends, according to his daily calendar.

    Amid his busy schedule that often went into the night, Mahan found time to catch up with some of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley business and real estate at high-end restaurants. The list includes billionaire Jay Paul, who’s building a three-tower, 3.64 million-square-foot office park in San Jose’s CityView Plaza, venture capitalist Gary Dillabough, whose company Urban Community has a host of properties in downtown, and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York, whose political action committee spent more than $700,000 to boost Mahan’s opponent in the mayoral race, among others.

    Mahan said the busy schedule during his first two weeks is just the beginning, adding it’s his mission to meet with as many stakeholders and community leaders as he can.

    “During the campaign I promised to hit the ground running—but these days, I’d call it more of a sprint,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “Community engagement in government is a hallmark of a functioning democracy. I was elected to serve the people, and anyone who has a stake in how our city is run deserves my time.”

    Dillabough, who had dinner last Friday with Mahan at The Village Pub, a fine dining restaurant in Woodside, said he appreciates Mahan’s sense of urgency to focus on the most pressing issues, such as public safety and homelessness. Dillabough was recently tapped to sit on one of Mahan’s task forces overseeing downtown vibrancy.

    “I have seen Matt spending time in numerous communities to authentically listen and try and understand what he can do to improve situations,” Dillabough told San José Spotlight. “I think he cares deeply about the city (and) he is setting a good tone.”

    Ahmad Thomas, CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, went to dinner with Mahan and York at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Palo Alto last Wednesday. Thomas said the organization, one of the region’s most prominent business trade groups, is eager to work with the new mayor.

    “Identifying opportunities to partner with our local leaders is more important than ever before as we tackle challenges around housing affordability, business growth, equity, infrastructure, public safety and other issues that impact the region’s competitiveness and quality of life for all residents,” Thomas told San José Spotlight.

    Mahan started his term announcing a state of emergency and an evacuation order to clear homeless residents living near rivers and creeks in light of storms and potential flooding. After walking along Coyote Creek to alert unhoused residents about the imminent threats, Mahan fielded roughly a dozen media interviews on his new job and the weather conditions. He also spent time visiting evacuation centers and talking to residents who are vulnerable to flooding.

    To establish his administration, Mahan met with District 1 Councilmember Rosemary Kamei—a few days before he announced her as his pick for vice mayor. He also fielded calls from retired Santa Clara County Superior Court judge Ron Del Pozzo, retired tech worker Arjun Batra and former San Jose city clerk Dennis Hawkins, who are among the finalists to fill the District 10 council seat, and former Councilmember Rose Herrera, who was eyeing the empty District 8 seat but failed to make the short list. The two seats became vacant after Mahan won his mayoral race and former Councilmember Sylvia Arenas won her county supervisor race.

    Mahan spent several days during his first two weeks meeting new hires in his office, preparing for his inauguration on Feb. 1 and planning his transition task forces to address homelessness, downtown vibrancy and permitting, among other things.

    The mayor also attended several community events, including a meet-and-greet with the South Bay Islamic Association and a congressional honoring ceremony for local Vietnamese-American activists, including the founder of the Viet Museum Loc Vu. He had coffee with several elected officials, including Congressman Ro Khanna, Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone and Supervisors Susan Ellenberg and Otto Lee, his calendar shows.

    Stone said he was impressed with Mahan’s quick response when his office requested a meeting. The assessor wanted to discuss an ongoing issue where San Jose is slow to provide building permit information to Stone’s office, delaying the assessing process. The problem could cost the city $6.2 million in property taxes, Stone said.

    “A new mayor is overwhelmed with putting the staff together, so I was surprised but delighted to get such a rapid response,” Stone told San José Spotlight. “But it’s hard to provide overall judgment about the mayor’s term in a couple of weeks.”

    Ellenberg, who met with Mahan over breakfast, said the two share similar goals. Both want to provide resources to the homeless population and address the mental health and substance use crisis.

    “There is no shortage of opportunities for us to work together to better solve the challenges that impact our shared residents’ quality of life,” Ellenberg told San José Spotlight.

    For other community leaders, Mahan’s willingness to meet with them during his first days in office is a good sign. David Duong, chair of the Vietnamese American Business Association, said Mahan told him he’s aiming to lead San Jose for 10 years. Duong’s recycling company, California Waste Solutions, is suing the city for discrimination and contract violations.

    “It’s good to hear he’s there to support Vietnamese businesses,” Duong told San José Spotlight. “We need a mayor and a council who understand the needs of our community.”

    Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter.

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