WALNUT CREEK -- The governor has tapped a City Councilman to be the administration's envoy to the business community, working to bring jobs and commerce to California.
Just a few weeks ago, Kish Rajan was working on his re-election campaign, and would have become mayor if he won in November. Now Rajan has announced he is dropping out of the race to focus on his new job as director of GO-Biz, the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development, which starts Oct. 1. Gov. Jerry Brown made Rajan's appointment official Tuesday morning at a Bay Area Council ceremony in Redwood City. At that same event, Brown signed Assembly Bill 2012, which re-establishes California's international trade offices in an attempt to increase exports. GO-Biz and the Bay Area Council plan to open an international trade and investment office in China.
Rajan, 42, will lead the 11-person GO-Biz department which focuses on "streamlining services for business leaders and enhancing job creation, economic development and international trade statewide," according to a news release from the governor's office.
The new post is a major opportunity for Rajan, who wasn't aware until a few weeks ago that he was even a contender for the job.
"In making the decision, it ultimately is about service," he said Tuesday. "A lot of things I have been working on professionally or on (the) council are still very relevant ... I will get to build upon that for Walnut Creek and statewide."
Rajan still plans to live in Walnut Creek. In his new role, he wants to help improve the state's economy and business climate by doing things he has done his entire professional and political career.
"I have worked in Silicon Valley, I have worked for large companies and I have a long career in business development, as well as working for a U.S. Senator and working as an elected official," said Rajan, a Democrat. "I have a real desire to figure out how to make things work well and how to make government a partner not a barrier to economic growth."
Walnut Creek Mayor Bob Simmons said while losing Rajan on the council will be hard, having someone in the governor's office with local government expertise is good not just for Walnut Creek but for all California cities in general.
"It helps having a Walnut Creek person in a high position in the state," said Simmons, elected to his first council term at the same time as Rajan and running again now. "Yes, he has a different obligation now, but he is never going to forget where he grew up and where his family is."
Rajan announced Tuesday that, although he will finish out his council term (which ends in December), he will stop campaigning for the city council seat, and won't serve if elected. The demands of his new job, he said, wouldn't let him be the council member he would want to be.
"As much as I enjoy serving on city council, I care too much about the future of Walnut Creek to occupy a critical leadership role that I could not adequately fulfill," he said in a statement.
Rajan's name will still appear on the Walnut Creek ballot, according to City Clerk Suzie Martinez, which means he could still receive votes.
This leaves Walnut Creek with four candidates vying for the three seats.
On Tuesday, Rajan said he wished he would have known of his new post before election season began.
"It's awkward that my name is on the ballot; I wish I could have controlled the timing," he said. "It's so important for me to transition in a way where I do right by the community and right by the City Council."
Because veteran Councilman Gary Skrel chose not to run for election, would-be candidates knew there would be change and had an opportunity to run, said Rajan, who doesn't plan to endorse anyone.
This new appointed position does not require state Senate confirmation. Rajan will be paid $136,152 a year, according to the governor's news release.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.
NEW TITLE: Director of the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz)
BACKGROUND: Grew up in Walnut Creek, attended Valle Verde Elementary, Foothill Middle and Northgate High Schools.
COLLEGE: Bachelor of Arts in U.S. History from UC Berkeley; J.D. from Golden Gate University School of Law
PUBLIC SERVICE: Walnut Creek Councilman, 2008 to present; Transportation Commission chairman, 2007-2008; worked for Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), 1992-1994
PRIVATE SECTOR: Principal of Kish Rajan Public Affairs since 2010; director of mobile sales at San Jose based SanDisk Corporation, 2007-2010; director of alliances at Good Technology Inc., 2004-2007; regional sales manager at Siemens, 2002-2004.