Hollister City Councilman Victor Gomez, who has been working as the chief of staff to San Jose City Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco, is moving on to a new job as the director of public policy and advocacy for the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce. On Jan. 4, Gomez will sign on essentially as a lobbyist for one of the largest chambers of commerce in the country.
Gomez told BenitoLink that he is excited about the new job for several reasons, not the least being the job offers more money to do what he likes best, working in politics and business.
“It’s going to be a pretty comfortable position compared to what I’m doing right now,” he said of the job he has been at for the past three years. “Right now with the City of San Jose, I’m focusing on policy. When things come up we decide on how things are going to move forward when it comes to city ordinances. But now, in working for the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, it’s exciting because I get to manage the political action committee and do policy work at the same time.”
Gomez said he will be in charge of the largest political action committee in Silicon Valley.
“What we do is support, indorse and put money behind candidates for mayor, city council for San Jose and throughout the Silicon Valley who are business friendly,” he said.
The new job, Gomez said, will not affect his work as councilman in Hollister.
“Actually, it’s going to help me,” he said. “The position is very dynamic and I can work from home and a variety of areas, like coffee shops. The job I have right now as chief of staff I have to constantly be in the office. So the new job adds quite a bit of flexibility, which my wife is very happy to see.”
In describing the job as being “more politically-based” rather than “policy-based,” Gomez said this is not an indication that he has any political aspirations that would lead to running for an elected office.
“I have to register as a lobbyist and I will be lobbying the mayor and the city council up there on non-election years,” he said. “In election years, I’ll be running the political side of it, putting money behind candidates, including city council and the mayors of San Jose, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, and Mountain View.”
Gomez said he thinks the chamber saw his mix of experience as a small business owner who has held elected office for two terms as a good fit.
“Even though the chamber represents big companies like Facebook, Yahoo, Cisco and E-Bay, they also represent a ton of small businesses throughout Silicon Valley,” he said.
There is potential for some crossover benefits between Silicon Valley and Hollister, Gomez noted.
“It never hurts to work for a business organization that has influence on some of the biggest names in business,” he said. “In no way am I going to cut off the relationships I’m going to be making with large companies and I'll do what we can to bridge those relationships. If there’s something they can’t do in Silicon Valley, obviously I wear a different hat and we can have those conversations.”
Mayor Ignacio Velasquez said there wouldn’t be any legal issues attached to Gomez taking on the new job with the Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce as long as there are no direct conflicts. He agreed with Gomez that there could be a significant benefit to Hollister through the Silicon Valley connections.
“I’m trying to recruit some of the tech companies, so any connections are a positive. Victor can be involved in those as long as they don’t financially benefit him,” he said.
Gomez said he was open to working with the mayor to attract new businesses to San Benito County.
“As somebody who commutes two hours a day, I’d rather not” commute, he said. “I think we have so many folks in Hollister if they could get a good, high paying job and stay local they’d rather do that.”
Gomez said he and about 55 percent of the population in Hollister commutes, and of those, 85 percent drive all the way to Silicon Valley to work.
“We could put a significant dent in that number,” he said.
There were rumors, according to the San Jose Mercury News, that Gomez and two others left Councilwoman Carrasco’s staff because of her management style that included yelling and using profanity. Gomez said he didn’t know about the others who left, but he did so because the new job was too good to pass up.
“This was a huge opportunity to be able to work for one of the biggest chambers in the nation and one of the few that represents some of the biggest businesses in the world,” he said. “For me, it was one of those positions that was a no-brainer move for me. To get paid a significant amount of money and to have influence in business politics is attractive to me.”