The City of Morgan Hill hired former Silicon Valley Organization CEO Matt Mahood as the city’s new Economic Development Director.
Mahood led SVO, a regional chamber of commerce that represents about 1,200 businesses, for nearly 10 years. Before joining SVO, he was President and CEO of the Sacramento Metro Chamber.
Earlier in his career, Mahood worked in various senior management roles in the private sector, according to a press release from the City of Morgan Hill.
Mahood, 56, will start his new post in Morgan Hill July 26, with an annual salary of $185,000. He will replace former Economic Development Director John Lang.
“The city’s long-term economic sustainability is paramount to the city’s goals and policies. Matt’s background, experience and connections will be instrumental in helping implement the city’s Economic Blueprint, support business retention, and expansion for the one million square feet of speculative development underway,” Morgan Hill Assistant City Manager Edith Ramirez said.
As CEO of SVO, Mahood worked with Ramirez and other Morgan Hill representatives, as well as the local chamber, on occasion regarding regional initiatives.
In an interview with the Times, he praised the city’s foresight in developing its Economic Development Blueprint in 2017, which sets out Morgan Hill’s long-term strategy to attract employers and tax revenue from out of town.
“Morgan Hill is a special, unique, charming city with a great quality of life that has just incredible momentum,” Mahood said. “I thought I could bring a skill set to the city of Morgan Hill that they haven’t had.”
A highlight of Mahood’s past work is his experience to work collaboratively and regionally on issues that support business retention and expansion, according to city staff. He is a former chair of the Silicon Valley Chamber Coalition that addressed key issues that impact business success.
“Matt will be a great addition to Morgan Hill. His regional stature will allow him to play a critical role representing the city at the regional and state level on important issues such as transportation solutions and housing policy,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
Mahood resigned from SVO Oct. 29 after someone from the organization’s political action committee posted a campaign ad to the web that was widely denounced as racist. Mahood called the posting a “horrific, sad accident,” and has maintained that he was not involved and was unaware of the post until after it went public. He had the post removed as soon as he saw it, he said.
But Mahood takes at least a portion of the blame as the head of SVO at the time of the incident.
“Ultimately, as president and CEO of an organization, you take responsibility for big mistakes that are made,” Mahood said. “I felt, and the board felt it was best if I stepped down and let them try and figure out a path forward.”
Morgan Hill city staff conducted an extensive background check on Mahood, and would not have hired him if he didn’t believe in the values of “inclusivity and equity” that the city seeks to uphold, Ramirez said. The background check included contacts with others at SVO who were aware of the controversy with the political ad in 2020.
Through that investigation, city staff charged with hiring Mahood determined that an internal inquiry conducted by SVO cleared him, but as the head of the organization he “had to take the fall,” Ramirez said.
“Our search confirmed he was not involved in that posting of that unfortunate, insensitive post,” Ramirez said.
The image that prompted Mahood’s resignation was posted on an online campaign ad criticizing a San Jose City Council candidate in the 2020 election. The image on the SVO website depicted a group of Black men in a cloud of smoke or tear gas along with the question, “Do you really want to sign on to this?”
The ad was promptly removed after it almost immediately stoked widespread outrage. A slew of nonprofits cut ties with SVO, several board members stepped down and the organization disbanded its political action committee in response to the fallout.
Ramirez added that after multiple interviews—including with two hiring panels—Mahood came in as the top candidate in the competitive search for a new economic development director for Morgan Hill.
“We felt the need to treat him fairly and give him a fair chance,” Ramirez said. “And as an organization, we ask (the public) to do the same. Diversity, equity and inclusion are so important to the city, and particularly to me as the person leading the effort” to hire a new economic development director.
SVO did not return a phone call requesting more information about their investigation.
For his part, Mahood is ready to put the SVO controversy behind him and get started on his new job. A resident of Los Gatos, Mahood is eager to meet the challenge of trying to attract and retain businesses like advanced manufacturing and healthcare providers to Morgan Hill, while preserving idyllic open spaces, recreational facilities and wineries that draw traffic from both residents and visitors.
“The lands are there and ready to be developed” for new business, Mahood said. “But the important part is ensuring, maintaining and protecting the quality of life in Morgan Hill.”
Mahood holds a Bachelor’s degree from California State University East Bay’s School of Business and Economics, with an emphasis in Organizational Communication and Public Relations, according to the city’s press release. He and his wife Penny have three adult children.
Mahood will be taking over the city’s economic development department from Lang, who took a job earlier this summer with the City of Mountain View.