As we reflect on Thanksgiving in 2022, there are many changes on the horizon for San Jose. As we continue to recover from the lingering effects – both medical and social – of COVID-19, it will be interesting to see where this shift takes us in a year or two. With that in mind, here’s my annual list of people and things I’m grateful for this year:
• San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who will be leaving City Hall at the end of the year after 16 years – eight as a downtown councilor and eight as mayor. Whether or not you agree with how he handled numerous crises during his tenure – COVID, homelessness, Black Lives Matter, the Coyote Creek flood – he worked hard to keep San Jose moving forward and mostly succeeded.
• Scott Knies, who stepped down as CEO of the San Jose Downtown Association earlier this year after 34 years with the organization. His experience as a swordsman no doubt helped him stay on his feet as he moved around City Hall looking for downtown businesses. His successor, Alex Stettinski, has a great legacy.
• Shawna Lucey, the new CEO of Opera San Jose, has already shown a knack for filling big shoes – and seats at the California Theater – after taking over the role of Khouri Dastoor this season and regaling audiences with the immersive productions of “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Cinderella” . The same can be said of Robert Massey, who seamlessly replaced Andrew Bales as CEO of Symphony San Jose.
• Jason Minsky, himself Mr. Christmas, who laid down his Santa hat as executive director of Christmas in the Park after spending a decade keeping the event going and then taking it to the next level. Year after year he was on the “nice” list.
• Three San Jose City Council members – Raul Peralez, Magdalena Carrasco and Vice Mayor Chappie Jones – who are leaving this year after eight years in office. This includes Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, who took his job seriously but was not above poking fun at himself.
• Four women who continued to tell the story of the Santa Clara Valley in books this year. Robin Chapman’s Valley of Heart’s Pleasure and Anne Marie Todd’s Valley of Heart’s Pleasure offer a historic look at what we were; Cassie Kifer’s Scavenger San Jose and Beth Kile’s Haunted San Jose had a little more fun with this place we call home.
• Steve Perez, interim president of San Jose State, who led the university with unbridled enthusiasm through a difficult year. I look forward to continuing that spirit when Cynthia Teniente-Matson takes over as president in January, becoming the first Latina to hold the position.
• Jessica Paz-Cedillos and Vanessa Shieh, co-executive directors of the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza, who initiated an ambitious expansion plan to revitalize Alum Rock Avenue.
• Our abundant open space in Santa Clara County, whether it’s the majestic beauty of 150-year-old Alum Rock Park or the simple serenity of our neighborhood parks. If you don’t like being part of the Black Friday shopping crowd, how about making the Green Friday wandering a new post-Thanksgiving tradition?
• Neil Farris, who fueled my comic book addiction and had great conversations over the past several years at Hijinx Comics in Willow Glen.
• Elisabeth Handler, another person I like to talk to who is retiring from the City of San Jose this year. She spent the last six years as a Public Information Officer in the Economic Development and Cultural Office, ending a long career in public relations.
• Chike Nwoffiah, founder of the Silicon Valley African Film Festival and this year’s winner of San Jose’s Cornerstone of the Arts Award. Few people have fought harder to change cultural narratives in this valley, and he is doing it across the continent.
• Sam Hirbod, who restored a key downtown San Jose location with the opening of the Signia by Hilton in May. The San Jose Jazz Summer Fest and Christmas in the Park just weren’t the same when the former Fairmont Hotel closed last year. Speaking of revivals, let’s hear from Andrew Saman who added nightlife to South First Street with the Mama Kin restaurant/music club picking up where Cafe Stritch left off.
• Friends I’ve lost this year, especially Norm Mineta, Thang Do and Joe Noonan. These three men had very different lives – the mayor and secretary of the US office, the architect who built SoFA Market, and the event and non-profit specialist in San Jose – but they had in common the ability to see the positive in their faces against overwhelming odds. My early resolution for 2023 is to be more like them.
• And, as always, to all our print and online readers who give us a reason to keep telling the story of this changing place. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!
#Heres #thankful #Thanksgiving