Longtime local politician Sally Lieber is looking to add another title to the long list of elected offices she’s held over the years: county supervisor.
The former state assembly member and Mountain View City Council member, and current state Board of Equalization member, announced April 3 that she will run for Santa Clara County’s Fifth District Supervisor seat in 2024.
“Looking at the fact that I have so much experience in the county’s work, in terms of foster care, dependency care, juvenile justice, affordable housing, all the environmental things that the county is involved in, all the social services for people with disabilities – it just became clearer and clearer that I should consider it,” Lieber said in an interview.
The seat is currently held by Joe Simitian, who has reached the maximum number of consecutive terms he can serve, opening up an opportunity for hopefuls like Lieber. Current Mountain View City Council member Margaret Abe-Koga also announced her intention to run last month.
Democrat Lieber was just elected to the state Board of Equalization last fall, securing a landslide victory in a district that spans 19 counties. The board is charged by the California Constitution with regulating county property assessment practices across the state.
Though Lieber only recently got off the campaign trail, she said she’s eager to get back out there – and this time, she’ll only have to travel around one county to talk with constituents, rather than 19.
“When I ran for the Board of Equalization, I received over 70% of the vote in Santa Clara County overall,” Lieber said in an interview. “So I think that I have the trust of a good number of voters, but I’m going to be reaching out to everyone. I’m one of those people who loves campaigning.”
Before getting elected to the state assembly in 2002, Lieber served on Santa Clara County’s Social Services Commission – experience that she believes will be an asset if elected next year.
“That gave me a lot of exposure to foster care and dependency care systems, and how those run and what happens when they don’t run well,” she said. “Then in the state Assembly, I had a lot of exposure to those areas as well as public health and mental health.”
As the co-author of the Mental Health Services Act, Lieber worked to expand mental health services in California during her time in the state assembly.
“The county, the bulk of what they do, is implementation of state legislation,” Lieber said. “So my knowledge of what’s going on at the state level … is just very relevant to everything that the board grapples with.”
If elected, Lieber said her top priorities revolve around homelessness in Santa Clara County, as well as doing “the most that we possibly can towards housing that’s affordable for our local workforce and people who need it.” She said she'd like to see more diversity within the county's homeless service providers, and for the county to work more closely with cities on addressing the crisis.
“Seniors are the largest growing population that’s homeless, and I think we need to really grapple with that," she added.
Looking specifically at Mountain View and North County, Lieber said another top goal, if she's elected, would be beefing up public transportation in this part of the district.
“There has been an issue over the past several years with transportation for North County, and working with the VTA (Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority) to ensure that North County is adequately served by public transit,” she said. “So that’s something I am very interested in.”
Given possible conflicts of interest between serving on the Board of Supervisors and Board of Equalization simultaneously, Lieber acknowledged that she’d have to vacate her current position early if elected as Fifth District Supervisor.
“If I were elected to the Board of Supes, there would be 11 months left on my term (in the state Board of Equalization),” Lieber said. “And the Board of Equalization is a little bit different in that we have chief deputies who can fulfill our term if someone leaves.”
Lieber added that there’s “a very viable piece of legislation out there” to do away with the Board of Equalization altogether, which also factored into her decision.
“I know that I want to stay in public service,” Lieber said. “And so it just really makes sense to try for the Board of Supervisors, because it’s such a natural fit.”