Following the adage that it’s best to leave on high note, Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews left office on the highest of high notes – the day after Santa Clara arrived on the world stage following a flawless Super Bowl 50 on a picture-perfect California day.
Matthews announced he was stepping down as Santa Clara’s mayor – an office he has held for six years – at a post-Super Bowl press conference Monday afternoon. Matthews has privately indicated that he planned to leave politics after his current term, but he gave no one any inkling that he had decided to retire sooner.
He was first elected mayor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. During his time in office, Matthews led the City through Levi’s Stadium groundbreaking, construction and opening; the first Bay Area Super Bowl in 30 years; the contentious five-year dissolution of the Santa Clara Redevelopment Agency; and the highest rate of growth since the 1970s. He took office when the City had a budget deficit and leaves it with a surplus.
His decision was due to family reasons, Matthews said. His years in public office had often cut into time with his family, and after two decades in public life, family needed to take priority – especially now when two of his four children are getting married this year. It was time he said, “to take a breath and see what the next chapter is for me.”
Long before holding public office, Matthews worked for the City three decades ago as a mechanic, and “graduating” to a street repair crew. In 1984 he became a San Jose code inspector, a job he held until he retired last April.
Matthews served on Santa Clara’s Planning Commission, and won election to the City Council in 1998 where he served until 2006. He was elected to another council term in 2008 and ran for mayor in 2010. He currently serves on the VTA board of directors, as well as many county and regional committees and task forces.
A fifth generation Santa Claran, Matthews is also passionate about music – he plays the trombone – and has served as president of Santa Clara High School’s and Buchser Middle School’s Music Booster Associations.
Vice Mayor Teresa O’Neill will serve as interim Mayor.
The Council has 30 days to appoint Matthews’ replacement. If they can’t agree on an appointment, there will be an election to fill the post. Whoever takes office will serve the remainder of Matthews’ term and can run for re-election in 2018.
“We all need to pull together as a city, as we just did to have our Super Community events and a very successful Super Bowl,” O’Neill wrote in a Facebook post, “to keep making Santa Clara a better place for everyone who lives and works here.”
Only four Santa Clara mayors have left office before the end of their terms. Their replacements were appointed from among the sitting council members and new appointments were made to the vacant seat.
However, this is the first time a mayor has left office early since the 1969 charter change making the mayor a separately elected office.
Matthews’ resignation gave the 24-hour news cycle new life after the Super Bowl’s news potential was pretty much exhausted.
Rumor Mill Works Overtime
The Silicon Valley Business Journal ruminated darkly about “guys vs. girls” gridlock on the Santa Clara City Council imperiling development projects currently on the drawing board. This follows last week’s story from the BJ about a “fractured” relationship between the City and the 49ers.
The Mercury has been no laggard in the speculation department; reporting what they heard from “sources” close to “City Hall insiders” about Santa Clara’s immanent “unraveling.”
The accuracy the Mercury’s sources is questionable. A story published Tuesday morning described the Santa Clara City Council as “made up of many new faces with most of the council members serving their first term,” and “Councilman” Dominic Caserta’s teaching career “as a political science instructor for San Jose State, San Francisco State University, De Anza, Foothill and West Valley colleges.”
When the majority of Council Members were women, no one was pushing a “gals vs. boys” narrative. The woman-majority Council approved the City’s Super Bowl bid.