Last night Rivermark resident Kathleen Watanabe was appointed to Santa Clara City Mayor Lisa Gillmor’s vacant seat #6, becoming the first Council Member in the City’s history from the Northside. Watanabe came out the winner in each of three rounds of voting – out of a field of 17 applicants – at a four-hour special meeting Monday evening. Planning Commissioner Raj Chahal was the runner-up.
“I have worked with Ms. Watanabe over the years,” said Mayor Lisa Gillmor after the vote. “She has quietly and worked tirelessly for Santa Clara – she worked to get the Northside library open. That shows leadership. And she will be the first representative of the Northside – one letter we received called her the ‘Mayor of the Northside.'” Watanabe has lived in the Rivermark neighborhood since 2003.
Watanabe will serve the remainder of Gillmor’s term and be able to run for City Council in November.
A Well-Known Force for the Community
When there’s community work to be done, you can count on finding Kathy Watanabe ready to pitch in.
Watanabe has been widely recognized for her contributions. She received the 2014 Santa Clara Library Foundation & Friends Outstanding Volunteer Award and State Senator Bob Wieckowski’s Santa Clara Local Hero Award in 2014. Santa Clara Sister Cities Association received that award in 2015.
In 2013 and 2014, Watanabe led the Rivermark-North San Jose community drive to help persuade thestate to sell former Agnews state hospital property on Zanker Roadto Santa Clara Unified for a new K-12 campus to serve that fast-growing part of the school district.
She is a member of the City Library Board of Trustees, President of the Santa Clara Sister Cities Association, and a member of the current Charter Review Committee – all of which she will have to resign in order to take office.
Watanabe has also been on the Santa Clara City Library Foundation & Friends board and is a Mission City Community Fund Pillar. She was a volunteer for Measure J – the referendum to build Levi’s Stadium – and the Santa Clara Schools Foundation, has served on bond measure committees for Santa Clara Unified and West Valley Mission Community College District (WVCCD), and has been a PTA fundraising chair.
Watanabe has been a strong supporter of arts in Santa Clara,and is the editor and publisher of The Echo newsletter for The Santa Clara Arts & Historical Consortium. She was an active supporter of the Triton Free Fridays performance series.
“When we moved to Rivermark in 2003, it was still a growing community,” Watanabewrote in her statement to the City Council.
“I got involved with Don Callejon School, which led me to getting involved with the Northside Library issue and then a library trustee. I became a volunteer for Measure J, which allowed me to become a spokesperson and interact with the community one-on-one.
“As a result of the stadium and growth in the Northside, there are more needs now. With the dissolution of RDA, the Northside can help provide the stream of revenue that the City lost. But growth needs to be done properly. The Northside needs a representative who can dedicate time and energy in working with the community and agencies interested in developing the Northside.”
When asked by Council Member Jerry Marsalli what her first action as a Council Member would be, Watanabe replied, “I have the agenda and the packet for tomorrow night’s meeting and I’m ready to go to work.”
Watanabe is a legal assistant at the international law firm Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett. She is married to WVCCD Trustee Karl Watanabe. They have one child.