Former Councilmember Forrest Williams Running for Mayor of San Jose

Former San Jose Councilmember Forrest Williams plans to run for mayor of San Jose, leaving a little less elbow room in an already crowded field.

In a bid to succeed Mayor Chuck Reed, Williams will face off against county Supervisor David Cortese, Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen and San Jose councilmembers Pete Constant, Sam Liccardo and Pierluigi Oliverio, amongst others.

Williams, a retired IBM engineer, was elected to the City Council in November 2000 and overwhelmingly won re-election to a second term in 2004. Before that, he served three terms as a trustee for the Oak Grove School District. He’s previously served on the board of directors for the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and currently serves as treasurer for the Santa Clara County Democratic Party.

After leaving the council and giving up dreams of being Don Gage’s intern, Williams ran for the the county supervisor seat previously held by Gage. County Supervisor Mike Wasserman defeated Williams for the District 1 seat in the 2010 runoff. Williams finished a few-dozen votes ahead of Teresa Alvarado in the primary, but 14,000 behind Wasserman.

Williams says he chose to run because he believes he can boost the city’s morale, especially in the police department, which took a hit when voters passed Reed’s controversial public employee pension reforms. Instead of relying on union support, he adds, he wants his campaign to be purely a grassroots effort.

“I’m not going to pursue the unions and the labor groups,” Williams says. “I think they will probably go with Cortese anyway.”

Despite the announcement, Toni Taber, San Jose’s city clerk, said Monday that no one from her office has helped Williams pull or file papers.

During his campaign three years ago, Williams was criticized for supporting a $4 million-a-year city subsidy of Hayes Mansion in lieu of using that money for other public services.

Earlier this spring, he criticized the council in an NBC Bay Area report for using public money to buy tickets to attend fundraising galas and dance parties that benefit community organizations. Councilmembers are allowed to use funds to buy tickets for themselves and significant others. As it turns out, years earlier, Williams voted for the policy.

But if anything is gained from that policy, aside from funding well-to-do meet-n-greets, it’s the gem of a quote current Councilmember Kansen Chu gave to the TV station when defending his ability to take his wife to events with city funds.

“They only allow us two (tickets),” Chu said. “Luckily, I only have one wife.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.


  1. Are you kidding me,  After having to talk with Forrest thru SJPD meetings he is the the one guy who has no clue.  God help us all!

  2. Don’t sell Forrest Williams short in this campaign.  He has great experience and a long record of professional work in high tech.

    He is often criticized for his very close analysis of the nature of the issue on the agenda, its history, and its likely consequences…but that is what elevates him in qualifications for the office of mayor above no fewer than four of his likely opponents.  He doesn’t grandstand, and he does not try to reduce complex issues to slogans…all worthy qualities.

    He also carries himself and acts like a mayor…dignified, thoughtful, and analytical.  We don’t need any more skaters through the surf of issues in office as mayor…we need someone who will dig into the issues. 

    I think he understands that being mayor means that he presides over the policy-making function of municipal government, and that he will not try to be the city manager as Hammer, Gonzales, and Reed have tried.  Those mayors would have come out with more serious legacies had they understood and carried out their legal role.

    I was surprised, but glad, to see Williams in the race.