San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan on Jan. 6 named newly-sworn-in District 1 Councilmember Rosemary Kamei—who started her political career in Morgan Hill—to serve as the city’s vice mayor.
Prior to her election in June, Kamei served as a Morgan Hill planning commissioner, a trustee of the Santa Clara Valley Water district and a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education.
“I’m optimistic and hopeful that we can get things done,” said Kamei, who adds, “I see myself as a bridge builder.”
“I feel that I have remained independent, and am very proud of that,” she said in discussing the council’s divide between a labor-aligned majority and a mayor elected with the support of the business community. “I do my homework. I try to gather information and I try to make a decision that’s good for the community.”
Kamei, who has degrees in political science and urban planning, said she was initially planning to concentrate on district issues in a part of the city she has only represented for a few days. Becoming vice mayor, however, had crossed her mind. “I had been thinking it was one of the things I want to do.”
“I feel very fortunate that he asked me,” Kamei told San Jose Inside. “He said he appreciated my independent perspective.”
The new vice mayor, 63, was born in New York City’s Spanish Harlem and grew up speaking Spanish. According to a 2005 Gilroy Dispatch article, she arrived in Berkeley with one suitcase and started her career as a receptionist. She married a South Valley grower and raised a family while working in the family’s flower growing business, which led to her interest in water issues and subsequent service on the water district board.
That experience might come in handy in a city that has already declared a state of emergency in advance of anticipated flooding. She may also be able to smooth over some of the friction between Mahan and the water district that emerged during last year’s campaign.
“I have a deep understanding of the water district. Fundamentally, I understand the issues. I know about floods, drought, climate change, and I understand the need for long term planning. It’s going to be very good for the City of San Jose,” Kamei said.
As for city governance in general, she believes the council needs to “be focused—and prioritize.”
“Our residents demand more and deserve better,” Kamei said. “The only way we move ahead is to work together to make things better.”
“I believe that having new members on the council and a new mayor gives us a greater opportunity to move things forward.”