Gay man seeks San Jose council seat
by Roger Brigham
When the race for the San Jose City Council District 6 seat was put on the ballot in late June, former Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center interim Executive Director Clark Williams didn't waste much time deciding to run.
"I've been active in Democratic Party politics for 20 years," Williams said, "and I've been considering a run for public office for a number of years now. When Ken [Yeager] won his race for Santa Clara Country supervisor, that's when I began to take a more serious look at it."
Yeager served five years as an openly gay member of the San Jose City Council before beating Santa Clara Mayor Patricia Mahan and San Jose City Councilwoman Linda LeZotte in early June for the county supervisor seat being vacated by Jim Beall. Yeager won outright with 51.96 percent of the vote.
"It was surprise that Ken won outright," Williams said. "It meant that we had to get up to speed fairly quickly.
"Ken has not yet made an endorsement in the race. I have met with him about my plans to run for office. Ken told me he was going to wait until after the filing period. Ken and I share a very similar philosophy of government."
The filing period ends Friday, August 11. As of press time, five other candidates had taken out papers for the District 6 race: Bill Chew, Brad Imamura, Pierluigi Oliverio, Jim Spence, and Steve Tedesco. Spence, president of the Association of Retired San Jose Police Officers and Firefighters, ran in District 6 against Yeager in 2000.
Chew ran and lost in the primary for the City Council District 3 race, then moved back to District 6 to run there. It is Chew's seventh run for office.
San Jose's image has been marred in recent months by ethical accusations and criminal charges brought against Mayor Ron Gonzales and his chief budget aide, Joe Guerra. Gonzales and Guerra pleaded not guilty to corruption charges last month. Williams said he thought it was important that the city government win back the trust of voters.
"Our city recently has faced a series of scandals," Williams said. "I think it's very unfortunate. I think the vast majority of our elected officials and our staff are ethical people. I by no means think this is the norm. It's certainly not the city I know.
"We need to put an ethics value plan in place. Using 'indictability' as a standard is not sufficient," Williams said. "I think if we make transparency and ethical codes part of our work culture we can restore public trust."
Williams, 41, and his partner James Moore have an adopted 3-year-old daughter, Caroline. Williams believes his active and open role as a gay family man gives the city council race a unique twist.
"For many people, we're the public face of LGBT families, not just locally but nationally," Williams said. "In many ways, there has yet to be a race quite like this."
Williams said there are a number of issues he feels are important.
"Quite frankly I am running because I care about my community. I'm running to protect quality of life in our neighborhood," said Williams. "The number one thing I hear the most about is what residents want from their council members: making government work better. That's something I have a great passion for. I like to be an advocate for the community."
Yeager is the only out LGBT person on the San Jose City Council, which he will be leaving when he is sworn in as a supervisor in January.
"The Yeager win was terrific for Santa Clara County. Certainly as an openly gay member of the council, I would be reflecting the diversity of San Jose. It's very important to our entire region that we have a diverse city council."
Williams served the DeFrank Center as interim executive director after the departure of Patrick Soricone last November, overseeing operations until the hiring of Aejaie Sellers in February. He donated his entire salary for that period back to the center.
Williams was the former executive director of a Maryland-based women's health care organization later worked with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. Williams is also an executive board member of Resources for Families and Communities, a member of the Citizen Watchdog Committee for Santa Clara County's Measure B Transportation Improvement Project, and a commission member for the City of San Jose's Project Diversity. He was awarded a 2004 Community Leadership Award by OutNow magazine in 2004.