Carl Guardino announced Tuesday that he’s retiring as Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s CEO once the industry association selects a successor.
In his 23 years as its head, Guardino has worked with four San Jose mayors, five California governors and elevated the profile of his organization as a voice for Silicon Valley business. In an email to SVLG board members, the 58-year-old San Jose native said he resolved to move on after conversations with his loved ones over the holidays.
“The decision to step down as CEO of our Silicon Valley Leadership Group has not been made lightly,” he wrote to the board. “Only after much contemplation, prayer and reflection with my family have I come to the conclusion that this chapter of my professional life will soon come to an end.
“I remain brimming with energy and insatiably curious, so whatever role might lie ahead for me will undoubtedly be a great challenge and an equally great opportunity to add value. Yet, no matter where my next role may be, I will always be this organization’s biggest supporter.”
Guardino has worked in public policy for his entire career, which he began as a legislative aide for then-Assemblyman Rusty Areias. He ran for Santa Clara County supervisor in 1990, losing to Mike Honda and became vice president of the trade association—at the time called the Santa Clara County Manufacturing Group—in 1991. After four years as VP, Guardino took an executive job at HP before returning to SVLG a few years later to replace Gary Burke as CEO.
During his tenure in the top job, Guardino doubled the size of SVLG membership, established himself as a powerful political fundraiser and advisor and emerged as a prominent voice for Silicon Valley in Washington DC.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who considers Guardino a close friend and advisor, commended the departing CEO for his philanthropy and advocacy.
“In Carl’s 23 years of leadership, I don’t know of another human being who has had a greater impact for the good of our valley, spearheading initiatives for badly-needed transit investment, affordable housing, education improvements, philanthropy, or simply bringing together 25,000 people who delight in running together on a Thanksgiving morning,” the mayor said in a prepared statement. “Carl’s decision leaves a large void atop a very important organization in our region.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom echoed Liccardo’s praise.
“As a former mayor [of San Francisco] and the current governor, I’ve witnessed firsthand for two decades Carl’s ability to get hard goals accomplished,” he said. “His ability to coordinate and collaborate with diverse interests may not seem unique today, but it certainly was a decade and two decades ago when we started working together. I look forward to what lies ahead for Carl and the future leadership role that he will play.”
Guardino told SVLG leaders that he would remain at the helm for up to six months until the board finds a replacement. In his correspondence with the board today, he listed the SVLG’s many accomplishments and expressed gratitude for being given the chance to lead the association as it advocated on behalf of 350 member businesses and community interests such as transportation and housing.
“In 1997, you entrusted a young executive from Hewlett Packard with the role of leading this amazing organization founded by the visionary David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett Packard,” he wrote. “I am still in awe that you allowed me to assume this role of responsibility for our region, state and nation and it has truly been the honor of my professional life to date, to serve our valley, our communities, and our innovation economy employers in this pivotal role.”
Below is a copy of his entire letter.
Dear Silicon Valley Leadership Group Board of Directors:
For 23 years I have been honored to serve as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. For the past 17 years, I have also had the distinct pleasure to serve (Pro Bono) as the Executive Director of our Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation. It is incredibly humbling to serve such a tremendous organization made up of the truly great employers of our region. Over the years, the CEOs of these companies have become role models, respected colleagues and friends.
While I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to lead an organization of leaders that has unquestionably shaped our region and our world, I have determined—after deep reflection about my professional future—that it is time for me to step aside as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and by extension, to step down from the Foundation as well.
Last Thursday morning, January 2, I had a chance to discuss my decision with our Board Chair, Western Digital CEO Steve Milligan, to both inform him of the news and discuss a thoughtful and thorough transition plan and notification strategy. Steve is gone until later today, at which point he will also follow-up with the Executive Board and Full Board to discuss a smaller CEO Search Committee and other essential items to a successful transition.
As I discussed with Steve, please know that I will provide our Board and Members with whatever time is needed to find a suitable successor and offer as many months as is needed (as much as six months or more) for your search process. If a longer time is required, I will do whatever I can to accommodate your schedule and process.
In 1997, you entrusted a young executive from Hewlett Packard with the role of leading this amazing organization founded by the visionary David Packard, Co-Founder of Hewlett Packard. I am still in awe that you allowed me to assume this role of responsibility for our region, state and nation and it has truly been the honor of my professional life to date, to serve our Valley, our communities, and our innovation economy employers in this pivotal role.
As I look back on nearly a quarter century of service as CEO, I will fondly remember our many shared successes in serving our companies and communities together. Ten critical areas have captured my focus and offered us so many opportunities to work together to improve the quality of life for our employees, their families and the communities in which we do business. As we have jointly tackled the challenges before us in addressing these areas of emphasis, we have strengthened our economy along the way, creating additional jobs for hard-working residents and forging an identity throughout the world as the epicenter of innovation. I’m deeply appreciative of your proactive leadership and support in countless ways in these ten areas:
- Establishment of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation which has forged a myriad of new traditions that have built community by bringing people together to serve causes bigger than themselves in wonderful ways like;
>> The Applied Materials “Silicon Valley Turkey Trot” – In our first 15 years, we have raised and contributed nearly $10 million to help needy families throughout our region, becoming the largest timed Thanksgiving Day run in the world for seven straight years.
>> The Santa Run Silicon Valley, presented by Google – In its first 8 years, our “Santa Run” has contributed more than $500,000 to Christmas in the Park and Downtown Ice, and has donated more than 4,400 children’s books to Reading Partners Silicon Valley.
>> The Lam Research Heart & Soles (Salad Bars for Schools) Run & Walk – In its first 6 years, we have provided nutritious salad bars to nearly 200 public schools, serving 145,000 children; and thousands more with nutrition, health and exercise programs through partnerships with the YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs and other service providers throughout the region.
- Creation of Housing Trust Silicon Valley– Now entering its 20th year, our Housing Trust Silicon Valley has secured more than $200 million in voluntary contributions, leveraging more than $2.5 billion in private developments, already serving more than 27,000 individuals and families to secure affordable homes in the high-cost Bay Area.
- Local Traffic Relief Ballot Initiatives totaling more than $30 billion in funding for the Valley:
>> 1996: A 9-year 1/2 cent sales tax that delivered 18 road and transit improvements, each delivered on-time and on-budget
>> 2000: A 30-year 1/2 cent sales tax to fund the first segment of the BART extension into Milpitas and San Jose, improve Caltrain, Light Rail, express buses and buses
>> 2008: A 30-year 1/8 cent sales tax to fund the operational costs of the BART extension
>> 2016: A 30-year 1/2 cent sales tax for key road and transit improvements, including Segment Two of the BART extension and Caltrain electrification and expansion
- Co-Leadership of Statewide Housing Bond Campaigns, totaling $11 billion
>> 2002: One of only two organizations to co-lead a $2.1 billion housing bond
>> 2006: One of only two organizations to co-lead a $2.85 billion housing bond
>> 2018: One of only four organizations to co-lead Propositions 1 and 2 to generate $6 billion to provide affordable housing and homeless housing
- Co-Leadership of Regional Traffic Relief Ballot Initiative:
>> Regional Measure 3 in 2018: In partnership with SPUR and the Bay Area Council, we co-led the campaign to fund 35 key transportation improvements in the 9-County Bay Area, which will generate $4.45 billion in its first 25 years alone.
- Reading Partners “1,000 Hearts for 1,000 Minds” Tutoring Initiative
>> In partnership with Reading Partners Silicon Valley and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, we secured nearly 750 caring adult volunteers to serve as tutors for at least one semester each, for children in the first through fifth grades to improve their reading comprehension and literacy.
- Regional Flood Mitigation and Bay Protection through Measure AA in 2016
>> In partnership with Save the Bay and the Bay Area Council, we co-led the 2016 Measure AA campaign to secure $500 million for Flood Mitigation and Bay Protection.
- Building a foundation for a 9-County or a 3-County transformative transit campaign
>> After years of leadership and effort, we are poised in 2020 for either a 9-County Bay Area transformative transit ballot campaign, or a 3-County transformative Caltrain & Dumbarton Corridors Campaign.
- Linking Housing, Land Use and Transit
>> Production: In the past 21 years, the Leadership Group has been the leading employer advocate for sustainable home developments located near transit, by endorsing and actively advocating for more than 300 home developments in more than 30 Bay Area cities and towns.
>> Production and Protection: Looking forward, we are poised to partner with all six of the Bay Area fixed rail transit providers, to thoughtfully consider current and future home and mixed-use developments at the 250-plus fixed-rail transit stations in nearly 70 Bay Area cities/towns.
- Creating the “Community College to Career” Initiative to rebuild the Bay Area’s middle class while strengthening the diversity of our world-class companies
>> In partnership with 19 Bay Area Community Colleges, which collectively serve 360,000 students; 77 percent of whom are people of color and 54 percent female – we are identifying 7-9 key job clusters that can be successfully filled by students with a two-year Community College degree or certified course work.
These successful efforts, and so many more, have been worth the sweat-equity model David Packard envisioned for the Leadership Group. I cannot count the times that we have built bridges with diverse leaders across the Valley to help bring these campaigns to life. As I reflect on the generosity and commitment to community so many of our member companies and others have displayed over the years, it astonishes me. I am so grateful to have been in the arena with you all for so many efforts that have shaped our region, state and nation.
The decision to step down as CEO of our Silicon Valley Leadership Group has not been made lightly. Only after much contemplation, prayer and reflection with my family have I come to the conclusion that this chapter of my professional life will soon come to an end. I remain brimming with energy and insatiably curious, so whatever role might lie ahead for me will undoubtedly be a great challenge and an equally great opportunity to add value. Yet, no matter where my next role may be, I will always be this organization’s biggest supporter.
There are so many tremendous challenges and opportunities worthy of our passionate focus. I expect to find a new role in which to serve our innovation economy, its employees and families, and I know that whomever you select as the next CEO of the Leadership Group will do the same.
Moving forward: Strategic leadership transitions have played a key role in the success of many of our member companies over the years and I want ours to be best in class. Out of respect for our 350 Member Company employers and our Leadership Group staff, I would be pleased to remain as CEO for at least the next several months, in order for our Board and Members to conduct a thorough and successful search for a successor CEO. Throughout these months, I am committed to helping our Board in any way that I can.
To my incredibly passionate and professional colleagues on the staff of our Silicon Valley Leadership Group and our Silicon Valley Leadership Group Foundation, I am humbled to have served with each of you – both current and former colleagues – for these past 23 years. Your commitment to our companies, compassion for our communities and passion for our mission is something I will forever cherish. I am indebted to each and every one of you for our collective successes.
I have often shared with my staff the questions that I frequently ask myself, as to whether I am in the right place to serve through my professional life:
>> Am I making a positive, proactive difference, in which I am also learning everyday?
>> Do I respect and value my colleagues and do I feel respected and valued in return?
>> Am I able to bring a fresh perspective to the role every day?
I am honored that I have been able to answer “yes” to these questions almost every day for the past 23 years.
Yesterday and this morning (January 6 and 7) I am reaching out to our Board of Directors. As you can imagine, I do not want my hard-working staff colleagues to find out about my decision second-hand, so I will wait until Tuesday, January 7, to notify them. At that time, I would also like to reach out to many of our community partners and elected leaders.
I am confident that the Leadership Group will continue to serve as one of our state and nation’s most significant change agents upon a new CEOs arrival and as I assume a new leadership role elsewhere when the time is right. I will leave this organization with extraordinary admiration and gratitude for all of the moments of history and change in which you allowed me to play a role.
Thank you for all you do for our communities and I look forward to playing any role in which you deem appropriate over the weeks and months ahead.