The president and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation, Ashley Swearengin has been elected co-chair of the California Forward (CA FWD) Leadership Council effective July 1. The former mayor of Fresno joins former State Treasurer and State Auditor John Chiang as co-chair of CA FWD, a multi-partisan non-profit that focuses on the best ways to make the government and the economy work for everyone.
“Ashley is a demonstrated change agent who understands that the California Dream will stay alive only if it is available to everyone,” said Micah Weinberg, CA FWD CEO. “With Ashley and John Chiang at the helm of our organization for the next year, our stakeholders can be assured we will stay focused on how we can develop and promote policy solutions that will benefit everyone in our state.”
Former California Assemblymember Catharine Baker was elected to the vice-chair position where she will join Van Ton-Quinlivan, the CEO of Futuro Health. In addition, the CEO of Los Angeles-based LeadersUp, Jeffery Wallace, was elected to his first term on the Leadership Council.
Swearengin replaces a fellow Central Valley leader, Pete Weber who has been a Leadership Council member since 2010 and has served as co-chair of the Leadership Council for the past six years.
“We are at a critically important time in California, both in terms of how we emerge from the historic COVID public health crisis and whether we make progress to ensure the California Dream is available to all of who live here,” said Swearengin. “I’m honored to work with CA FWD to help influence how we address these and other major issues facing our state.”
Outgoing Council member Pete Weber, meanwhile, was universally praised for his commitment not only to the organization but also for his work in promoting equitable economic development.
“Pete is a world-class problem solver who is relentless and patient with a known tremendous work ethic,” said his longtime co-chair Lenny Mendonca.
Former CA FWD CEO Jim Mayer agreed.
“Pete Weber is the textbook example of the successful business leader who turns his entrepreneurial ingenuity, management acumen and competitive drive to the public interest,” Mayer said. “California and California Forward are better off because of his tireless efforts, beyond reasonable generosity and civic stewardship.”
New co-chair Ashley Swearengin had this to say about Weber:
“Pete has been a can-do person for the past twenty years who has positively influenced our region and our state. His service to CA FWD has been outstanding and we thank him for his significant contribution to the organization’s growth.”
Co-chair John Chiang called Weber “an extraordinary leader who is one of a kind, who is a deep thinker that works through the wrinkles of resistance to big issues to identify and promote answers to the big issues facing the state,” said Chiang.
And San Francisco attorney and Leadership Council member Jennifer Hernandez added that Pete’s “real world honesty” has helped the organization to arrive at practical solutions to the vexing issues facing our state.
Weber retired from a very successful business career in 2001 to dedicate himself to community and economic development activities in the San Joaquin Valley. He currently serves on the boards of the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley; the Fresno Regional Jobs Initiative; the Fresno Citizen Corp; the Fresno Business Council; the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship; The Fresno Bridge Academy; and Fresno Citizens for Good Government.
“When I worry about the erosion of the California Dream for many Californians, I restore my hope by conjuring up images of the extraordinary people with whom I have served at CA FWD, talented people from across the political spectrum who are more interested in solving problems than politics or ideology,” Weber said.
Weinberg thanked Weber for his mentorship and marveled at Weber’s ability “to get up to speed on complex policy faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. We will miss him greatly.”
Weber was named the California Economic Summit 2019 California Steward Leader of the Year which was, fittingly, held in his hometown of Fresno.
Weber is a native of Peru which prompted CA FWD Leadership Council member Dave Regan to joke that Pete is “my favorite Peruvian Republican who lives in Fresno,” and to remind us all that Weber is known as a “fair-minded open-minded problem solver.”
CA FWD will miss Pete Weber and all associated with the organization are deeply grateful for his guidance over the last decade plus.