Blonde woman in denim shirt stands behind podium, with sign 75,000 jobs, in front of group of people with signs reading "Ready to work"
Santa Clara County Supervisor and VTA Board Chair Cindy Chavez said the requested $6.2 billion federal funding will be integral to finishing the six-mile BART expansion through San Jose to Santa Clara, and that construction will bring 75,000 jobs to Silicon Valley. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

After two attempts to leave Silicon Valley, a South Bay political fixture was chosen to lead a county hundreds of miles away — in New Mexico.

Elected leaders in Bernalillo County chose Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez to be the county’s top administrator in a split 3-2 vote Tuesday. If she accepts the job and passes a background check, Chavez will pack her bags and move east by January when her supervisorial term ends.

Bernalillo County has a population of 672,000 and is where Albuquerque, the state’s largest city, is located. As the county’s manager, Chavez would oversee its management and operations, including health services, housing and public works.

Chavez told San José Spotlight she would not comment on the nomination or vote Tuesday.

She has represented District 2 on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors since 2013 and terms out this year. She was among two other finalists, Bernalillo County’s Economic Development Director Marcos Gonzalez and Joseph Lesard, the former city manager of Ashland, Oregon.

“While I think this is a blessing to have three very talented individuals at the table to choose from, it’s also been a curse because it’s a very difficult decision,” Vice Chair Eric Olivas said. “I believe Ms. Cindy Chavez has shown incredible leadership in San Jose, in Santa Clara County, where she currently resides but she also knows our local culture, our local community.”

Chair Barbara Bacas said the appointment will be dependent on a background check and contract negotiations. Bernalillo County held a special public meeting on June 18 for residents to give public comment and ask the three finalists questions, including Chavez.

Chavez unsuccessfully ran for the San Jose mayoral seat for the second time in November 2022, and her political career in Silicon Valley has spanned decades. Chavez served on the San Jose City Council for eight years after winning election in 1998. The council appointed her to be vice mayor in her last year before she ran for the city’s top seat against former Mayor Chuck Reed in 2006. She also served as executive director of the South Bay Labor Council and Working Partnerships USA from 2009 to 2013.

Chavez tried to leave Silicon Valley earlier this year for a job as the top administrator in San Diego – but failed to secure enough support.

Over the course of her career, Chavez has won support from former President Bill Clinton, Congresswomen Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo, as well as former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta. She was endorsed by dozens of local progressive leaders and was even able to reach across the aisle and snag the support of more moderate elected officials.

This story will be updated.

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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