Paul Ledesma, Regional Political Organizer for Save The Bay
Paul Ledesma, Regional Political Organizer for Save The Bay

My earliest memories of Penitencia Creek include playing on the ruins of the turn-of-the-century mineral baths.

One of my favorite pastimes was searching for crawdads in the creek as it flowed through Alum Rock Park in San Jose. At that time, the area was surrounded by orchards and pasture lands that were disappearing vestiges of the Santa Clara Valley, and on the verge of being rechristened Silicon Valley.

The Valley’s constant and rapid change is what I most remember.

In 1961, the year I was born, San Jose had a population of just over 200,000. Today, over a million people call it home. As the city sprawled towards the foothills, the pastures and orchards disappeared.

Seeing such dramatic change during my childhood left me with the desire to better understand the forces at play that could cause such a transformation. Eventually, this preoccupation became a vocation, born out of an aspiration to help preserve the City’s undeveloped riparian corridors.

For the last 25 years, I have had a rewarding career managing environmental programs at the cities of San Jose and San Francisco where I worked on watershed protection, zero waste, and clean energy programs. At Save The Bay I want to apply the lessons learned from working in local government to my new role, advocating for higher standards, improved funding, and more oversight of the watersheds that drain into the Bay.

As Save The Bay’s new Regional Political Organizer, I’ll be working with Bay Area local governments and community partners in support of our new Bay Smart Communities program and our ongoing efforts to make Bay restoration a core element of climate change adaption policies across the region.

I am thrilled to join the policy team at Save The Bay.

When I was in local government, I relied on Save The Bay’s advocacy to amplify the City’s messages regarding watershed protection and reach into the community in a way that I couldn’t as a city staff person. The objectives of local governments and that of Save The Bay won’t always line up, no matter how hard we try. But, what I’ve learned from my time at City Hall is that the kind of collective impact needed to protect and restore San Francisco Bay doesn’t always require stakeholders’ objectives to align perfectly.

It just requires that we all share a core vision and keep traveling in the same direction.