Longtime government leader and media specialist Lenka Wright is running to represent South San Jose.
Wright, a former broadcast journalist turned communications director for Mountain View, is eyeing the District 10 San Jose City Council seat to represent the Almaden and Santa Teresa area. She is the first to announce her candidacy for the 2024 election, although incumbent Councilmember Arjun Batra is intending to run as well.
Wright, 52, worked as assistant director of communications for San Jose from 2011 to 2016. After a short stint in Washington, she worked as communications director in Santa Clara for two years and has been in Mountain View for two years. She said if elected, her priorities will be public safety, quality of life and homelessness.
When she first moved to San Jose in 2010, she said it was known as the safest big city in the nation where residents could afford to live. Her goal: to bring back San Jose to its former glory.
“I felt like I had hit the jackpot. The city was so amazing, with beautiful parks and trails and perfect weather. Combined with cultural diversity and opportunity to flourish,” Wright told San José Spotlight. “However, in recent years, I’ve seen growing concerns in San Jose with residents feeling less safe and homelessness growing.”
When examining the issue through a political lens, Wright said she believes the solution to homelessness is a multi-pronged approach that combines affordable housing as well as quick-fix, temporary solutions to alleviate what she says is a “humanitarian crisis.” A safe parking site to house dozens of homeless people living in their vehicles opened this month in her district, and Wright said she is eager to see its effects to determine if the city should open more.
In terms of public safety, Wright said she wants to ensure the police and fire departments are fully staffed, a problem plaguing the city in recent years. San Jose has one of the smallest police departments with roughly 1,173 sworn officers for a city of approximately 1 million residents. By comparison, San Francisco employs approximately 2,100 sworn officers with a population of about 875,000.
She also wants the city to invest in more emergency services to prepare for a worst case scenario—like an earthquakes or and wildfires.
Rosemary Barnes, former spokesperson for the San Jose Mineta International Airport, met Wright when they worked in the city in 2012 and over the years have become close friends. She said Wright was always the best at handling crises—quickly responding to residents and stakeholders in difficult situations. She said Wright would be perfect for council primarily because she already understands the nuances of local government and knows how to use her skills to accomplish day-to-day tasks and achieve her long-term goals.
“She’s innovative. She’s tenacious. She has an incredibly collaborative style. She listens and she has a big heart,” Barnes told San José Spotlight. “I’m thrilled for her, I’m thrilled for the D10 community and I’m thrilled for the city because of how lucky we will be with her representing us.”
Wright said another priority will be to increase community engagement within her district, which she says empowers residents to collaborate with elected officials on addressing critical issues.
“Ensuring that the community is informed when there are changes being proposed that they are aware of that. That is something that I can help with,” Wright said.
Wright said her decade-long career as a broadcast journalist and communications director in local cities lends her a fresh perspective that longtime politicians may no longer have.
“I’ve lived and worked in a lot of places around the country. I’ve seen what has worked and what hasn’t with policy decisions and the long-term impacts of them,” Wright said. “But I am someone who is focused on outcomes and what the data tells us.”
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.