(Photo: Violeta Vaqueiro/CAFwd)
“I wanted to make sure that my grandchildren, who were not yet born, would feel that staying in California would be a good option for them.”
That’s how Pete Weber of Fresno described his approach to public service over the last twenty years. The former private sector CEO turned community leader will be honored as a California Steward Leader of the Year at the 2019 California Economic Summit in his adopted hometown this week.
“Pete Weber is a force,” said Ashley Swearengin, the highly respected former mayor of Fresno who is CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation. “Every community in California ought to be so lucky as to have a civic leader like Pete. When it comes to improving the Central Valley, no task is too small. No goal is too big. No amount of work is too much. Pete is fiercely dedicated to the principle of stewardship and to the people of the Central Valley.”
Weber was born in Lima, Peru and came to the U.S. when he was in high school.
“I experienced the California Dream. This state and country have been very generous to me. I want to make sure the opportunities that were available to me are available to all,” he said.
Weber’s work has been impactful. In 2010, he founded the California Bridge Academies (CBA). CBA has grown from a pilot project in Fresno with 120 families to an employment and training provider for more than 4,500 low-income clients and their families. In 2017, California Bridge Academies was selected as one of the “11 Best Bets” by the Center for High Impact Philanthropy and the MacArthur Foundation.
Weber, whose hands-on style is well known, says he often visits the program participants because he enjoys making a “personal connection with people whose lives have been and will be transformed” by the program.
“Pete continues to advise policymakers, advocate for low-income families, and to serve on boards and committees focused on enabling the California Dream for all Californians,” said Luis Santana, Executive Director of Non-Profit Reading and Beyond, which now runs the California Bridge Academies. “He is an unparalleled collaborator and facilitator bringing government, non-profit, and private sector leaders together to support common goals and principles.”
Weber’s work hasn’t been limited to Fresno. He said he realized soon after he started his work in the community that a lot of challenges Fresno was facing needed to be addressed outside of Fresno County. In 2006, he helped persuade Governor Schwarzenegger to create the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley.
Weber, who is Republican, joined the California Forward Leadership Council and has been an articulate advocate for giving the unique regions of the state whatever tools they needed from the state government in order to let them prosper on their own terms.
“It has been an honor to work with Pete. His passion to always do what’s best for his city, his region, his state and his country reflects a bipartisan approach to problem solving that is all too rare these days, ” said Lenny Mendonca, who worked many years as co-chair of CA Fwd with Weber before joining the Newsom Administration as the Governor’s Chief Economic Adviser. “When he started his second career twenty years ago to give back to the state that he believes gave him so much, it was a gift for all Californians and a testament to his relentless energy and remarkable productivity. He is richly deserving of this recognition.”
Weber has been a guest lecturer at Stanford University and U.C. Berkeley (his alma maters) on strategies for lifting people out of poverty and for renewal of California’s middle class. Weber was also selected as a leadership award winner by the James Irvine Foundation in 2017.
Weber’s contributions to the reform work at California Forward was noted by the organization’s two leading executives.
“Pete is the very archetype of a civic leader for the state,” said Micah Weinberg CA Fwd CEO. “A successful business person, he has for the past twenty years been a leading steward of his region. He has been a tireless champion for the Fresno region but also for taking that energy to the statewide level as co-chair of California Forward.”
“Pete has been one of CA Fwd’s most dedicated leaders, contributing his time, talent and treasure to making a better California,” added Susan Lovenberg, CA Fwd Chief Operating Officer.
While his soccer, golf and skiing days are mostly behind him, Weber continues to play competitive bridge at a national level. He also is very happy that his children and their children (those grandchildren he was thinking about 20 years ago) live close by.
Weber’s work to his community and his state is not done. He is going to continue to focus on issues that assure that “other Californians have the opportunity I have had.”
Congratulations to Pete Weber—California Steward Leader of the Year!