Thanksgiving 2022 is what I’m most grateful for here

As we reflect on this Thanksgiving 2022, there are many changes on the horizon for San Jose. As we continue to recover from the ongoing effects – both medical and social – of COVID-19, it will be interesting to see where this change will take us in a year or two. With that in mind, here’s my yearly list of people and things I’m grateful for this year:

• San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who will leave City Hall at the end of the year after 16 years – eight as councilman and eight as mayor. Regardless of how he’s handled the numerous crises of his tenure — COVID, homelessness, Black Lives Matter, the Coyote Creek flood — he’s worked hard to move San Jose forward, and has mostly been successful.

• Scott Knies, who resigned this year as CEO of the San Jose Downtown Association after 34 years with the organization. His background as a fencer no doubt helped keep him on his toes as he navigated City Hall for downtown businesses. His successor Alex Stettinski has a great legacy.

• Shawna Lucey, the new director general of Opera San Jose, has already shown a knack for filling big footsteps – and seats at the California Theater – after taking over Khouri Dastoor this season and delighting audiences with riveting productions of The Marriage of Figaro ” spoiled ” and ” Cinderella”. The same goes for Robert Massey, who has seamlessly succeeded Andrew Bales as General Manager of Symphony San Jose.

• Jason Minsky, Mr. Christmas himself, who hung up his Santa hat as CEO of Christmas in the Park after spending a decade running the event and then taking it to new heights. He earned his way onto the “nice” list year after year.

• Three San Jose City Council members — Raul Peralez, Magdalena Carrasco and Deputy Mayor Chappie Jones — who are stepping down this year after eight years in office. So did Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman, who took his job seriously but also made fun of himself.

• Four women who once again told the story of the Santa Clara Valley in books this year. Robin Chapman’s The Valley of Heart’s Delight and Anne Marie Todd’s Valley of Heart’s Delight take a historical look at the way we were; Cassie Kifer’s “Scavenger San Jose” and Beth Kile’s “Haunted San Jose” had a little more fun with this place we call home.

• Steve Perez, interim president of San Jose State, who led the university through a difficult year with unbridled enthusiasm. I look forward to that spirit continuing when Cynthia Teniente-Matson takes over as President in January and becomes the first Latina to hold the post.

• Jessica Paz-Cedillos and Vanessa Shieh, the Co-Executive Directors of the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza, who have launched an ambitious expansion plan that will serve to revitalize Alum Rock Avenue.

• Our expansive open spaces in Santa Clara County, whether it’s the majestic beauty of 150-year-old Alum Rock Park or the simple tranquility of our neighborhood parks. If being part of the Black Friday shopping hordes isn’t your thing, how about taking a Green Friday hike into your new post-Thanksgiving tradition?

• Neil Farris, who nurtured my comic book habit and made great conversations at Hijinx Comics in Willow Glen for the past 12 years.

• Elisabeth Handler, another of my favorite conversationalists, who is retiring from the city of San Jose this year. For the last six years she has been a public relations officer in the Office for Economic Development and Culture, crowning a long career in public relations.

• Chike Nwoffiah, founder of the Silicon Valley African Film Festival and this year’s recipient of the City of San Jose’s Cornerstone of the Arts Award. Few people have fought harder to change cultural narratives in this valley, and it is doing so for an entire continent.

• Sam Hirbod, who brought back a must-visit destination in downtown San Jose with the opening of Signia by Hilton in May. The San Jose Jazz Summer Fest and Christmas in the Park just felt different when the former Fairmont Hotel closed last year. And while we talk about reincarnations, let’s hear it for Andrew Saman, who brought nightlife back to South First Street with restaurant/music club Mama Kin, which picked up where Cafe Stritch left off.

• The friends I lost this year, especially Norm Mineta, Thang Do and Joe Noonan. These three men had very different lives — a mayor and a US cabinet secretary, an architect who built the SoFA Market, and a jack of all trades for events and nonprofits in San Jose — but they shared an ability to look the positive in the face overwhelming odds. My early resolution for 2023 is to be more like her.

• And as always, to all our readers in print and online for giving us a reason to keep telling stories about this changing place. Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving Day!

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