Gay Morgan Hill Councilmember Spring won't seek reelection

  • by Cynthia Laird, News Editor
  • Friday March 22, 2024
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Morgan Hill City Councilmember Rene Spring has announced he will not seek a third term in November. Photo: Courtesy Rene Spring
Morgan Hill City Councilmember Rene Spring has announced he will not seek a third term in November. Photo: Courtesy Rene Spring

Gay Morgan Hill City Councilmember Rene Spring announced Friday that he will not seek reelection to a third term this year.

In a letter to the editor sent to the Bay Area Reporter and Morgan Hill outlets, Spring wrote that he felt it was time to pass the baton to a new leader. He has represented District C in the South Bay city for the last eight years.

"While I will continue to serve diligently for the remainder of my term, I believe it is time for new ideas and energy to move our city forward," Spring wrote.

He stated that he has given the idea a lot of thought.

"After much consideration and discussions with my husband, Mark Hoffmann, I have decided not to seek reelection to the Morgan Hill City Council (District C) in 2024," Spring wrote. "I have had the privilege of serving our city for 12 1/2 years, first as a planning commissioner for 4 1/2 years, then as a Councilmember for District C for eight years. Additionally, I also served one term as commissioner of the Veterans Commission of Santa Clara County from 2016-2020."

Spring, 60, will not leave the council early, he stated, and will serve until December. And while there are no term limits for the council, Spring stated he "firmly" believes in them.

Spring first ran for the council seat in 2016, as the B.A.R. noted in a 2020 article. He was elected, becoming the first known LGBTQ person to serve on the governing body, and in November 2020, he handily won a second four-year term.

In a phone interview March 22, Spring said that when he first ran for the council, people didn't think he had a chance. While he did not run as a gay candidate, Spring didn't hide it either, he said.

"I won in a landslide," he recalled.

As the city's first out elected councilmember, Spring said that he used his visibility to help advocate for services in Morgan Hill, a community of about 45,000 people in southern Santa Clara County.

"Just showing up and showing community members we are a safe city," Spring said of his early tenure. "The Pride flag flying was something I initiated."

He also sought municipal services for the LGBTQ community as the city had none at the time. "We have spaces and the county acknowledged we need services," Spring said. Today, there are safe spaces for youth and some health services, but more are needed, he pointed out.

Spring, a native of Switzerland, became a U.S. citizen in 2006. He works full time at Cadence Design Systems.

He previously told the B.A.R. that he sought reelection four years ago because he wanted to continue serving on the council so there was a progressive, LGBTQ voice on the body advocating for smart development that includes more affordable housing and office space so residents do not have to commute north to their Silicon Valley jobs.

Spring has been a strong advocate for the protection of Morgan Hill's rural charms and wild landscape. The city is the gateway into the sprawling Henry Coe State Park, which saw roughly 56,000 acres burn due to the SCU Lightning Complex Fire in 2020.

"One of the reasons I ran for council was I really wanted to stop the urban sprawl outside of our city limits. We still have ag land and open space, that means a lot to me," said Spring in the 2020 interview. "I want to preserve it, as do a lot of the people here. It is why they voted for me four years ago."

Spring first moved to the Bay Area in 1998 and met Hoffmann, an artist, that year in San Francisco. They married in 2008, and Spring is a step-dad to the couple's three adult children and now a grandfather called "Opa" to three grandkids. Hoffmann retired from the U.S. Postal Service in April 2023, Spring said.

Ken Yeager, a gay man and former Santa Clara supervisor and San Jose councilmember, is now the executive director of the BAYMEC Foundation. In that role Yeager has started featuring biographies of LGBTQ Silicon Valley electeds and other leaders as part of his Queer Silicon Valley project. He posted one about Spring that was written by Lorraine Gabbert.

Spring said that he announced his plans now to give others time to prepare. He thinks it's unlikely an LGBTQ person will run for his seat. "We'll see who comes forward," he said. "I hope someone who's similarly open-minded — an ally — is welcome. The next best would be a great ally."

In his letter, Spring thanked his constituents.

"I am grateful for the support I have received throughout my time in office, from my small campaign team to all those who believed in me, supported us one way or another, and, of course to the many who voted for me," he wrote. "I want to thank everyone for their support and friendship, and I look forward to spending more time with my husband and supporting his art projects, to hanging out with friends and family."

Spring said that he has no plans to seek another elected office in the future.

"I hope my decision today will encourage other residents of District C to run for office and bring fresh perspectives to our community," he wrote.

Updated, 3/23/24: This article has been updated to state that Rene Spring's husband, Mark Hoffmann, retired from the postal service last year.

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