Q&A with Carl Guardino as Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO prepares to step down
Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group speaks at the Capital Club about Faster Bay Area. Photo by Janice Bitters.

Carl Guardino made a surprise announcement Tuesday he’d step down from his 23-year role with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, where he serves as CEO and wields enormous influence throughout the Bay Area.

But the unanswered questions around his upcoming transition out of the key business group, which is expected to take up to nine months, permeated the conversation Tuesday, including those around the timing of his resignation, his future in the region and the direction of the leadership group.

Guardino has helped shepherd major initiatives related to transportation and housing. The CEO helped buoy an initiative in 2000 that brought BART to the region and later pushed for another successful measure to extend the transportation system into the South Bay. He’s also been a major advocate for FASTER Bay Area, a $100 billion tax measure for transit investment that may end up on the Nov. 2020 ballot.

San José Spotlight caught up with Guardino in between his meetings for an email Q&A to ask those questions. The following answers have been edited slightly for length and clarity.

Q: Why did it made sense professionally to resign now, ahead of the FASTER Bay Area initiative… and a major election. Tell me how these two things did or did not factor into your decision?

A: While there is never a perfect time to leave a job we love, the beginning of the year — with a new State Legislative Session, new Congressional Session, newly approved Member Company work-plan, seemed like the best time to start this four- to nine-month transition. I have passionately co-led our FASTER Bay Area efforts since January of 2017 — three years already — and will continue to co-lead until my departure, and then still help in any way possible.

No one should take for granted the campaign depth and bench strength on major ballot initiatives that is in-house at the Leadership Group. It is not limited to me. People often forget that we have run and led 14 successful local, regional and statewide initiative campaigns during my tenure, and none of those have been solo acts. We are a team, and the team here will continue to help lead efforts like FASTER.

Q: You have been a prolific fundraiser for major initiatives and ballot measures over the past two decades. Do you plan to continue fundraising work? If so, do you have any specific issues you hope to stay involved in?

I have been singularly focused in the role entrusted to me as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. From my own personal sense of ethics, that also means that I have not yet even begun to think about “what’s next,” let alone have anything lined up. I am hoping a future role will combine my twin passions: America’s Innovation Economy and a deep commitment to the communities and families in which we do business. If that is the case, I imagine there will continue to be specific ways in which I can support important causes and efforts that benefit our communities, especially our most vulnerable families.

Q: Do you have any ideas about what you are doing next? 

A: I truly do not know what is next, as I did not believe it was appropriate to start searching in any way while I was still being entrusted to lead the Leadership Group. Over the weeks ahead, Leslee (Guardino’s wife) and I will start those conversations internally and externally. We are excited about our future, and how I can contribute in my next servant-leadership role. In our faith tradition, we have a deep comfort in whatever path God has set for us.

Q: What are you major goals for yourself and the Leadership Group between now and your transition out of the organization? 

A: Our Board and Members just approved our ambitious and exciting “Rolling Three-Year Business Plan” for 2020 through 2022, and I am excited about working with our professional staff and members to ensure each new initiative is launched with success.

Q: What are your hopes for the Leadership group in the future — say a decade from now? 

A: My hope, and belief is that the Members and staff of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group will stay grounded in the wisdom of our Founder, David Packard – To build great companies with caring corporate cultures, while also working to improve the communities in which we are located and our employees and their families live.  Business Success and Community Service has never been an “either/or,” it should always be an “and.”

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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