The Accidental Mayor

Tech industry veteran Lisa Matichak (’89) got involved in politics, now she’s mayor of Mountain View
UCLA Anderson alumna and tech veteran Lisa Matichak

Not too long ago, Lisa Matichak (’89), a 30-year veteran of the Silicon Valley tech industry most recently focused on cybersecurity, faced a dilemma: A property near her home once believed to be “undevelopable” was all of a sudden going to be developed. Matichak got involved in the process, helped form a neighborhood association (and became its first president), began lobbying the local city council and eventually saw the property developed in a manner more compatible with the area. That experience led her to be appointed to the local planning commission, which in turn prompted her successful run for city council.

“I think having a career in business and an education in business makes me different than a lot of folks who get into local government.”

Today, Matichak is Mayor Matichak, serving as chairman of the board of Mountain View, California ― home to Google and a plethora of tech companies large, small and everything in between.

“[My time on the Planning Commission] was an incredibly rewarding experience. After 30 years in technology, to start a second career where you learn all kinds of new things and — most important — have an impact on the community in which you live, is incredibly rewarding.

“After seven years [there], I decided to run for city council, mostly because I felt like if I didn’t do it (and I felt like I had good background and education and skills to do it), somebody else would. And they might have different perspectives on things than I did, and I might not like that.” In Mountain View, the mayor comes from a rotation of council members; it’s Matichak’s turn now after a year as vice mayor.

It’s not surprising that in her role as mayor, Matichak interacts quite a bit with those in the tech industry, whence she came. The relationship is complicated.

“I would say the relationship between the city government and the tech companies is sort of love-hate. There are so many benefits of having tech companies here, [as they] provide opportunities for residents, and it certainly helps the economy,” Matichak says. “But with the job growth comes people moving to the area, and that’s where the challenges come about for local government. We are trying to address the housing and transportation issues that result from the high employment in the tech industry here in Silicon Valley.”

Tech industry veteran Lisa Matichak (’89) got involved in politics, now she’s mayor of Mountain View

More specifically, Matichak says Mountain View City Council establishes goals every two years. “The first is housing: We want to increase the supply and diversity. Second is transportation: We want to expand options to allow people to move more easily and safely around the community. Third is sustainability and livability: We have a very strong focus on reducing the carbon footprint of not only the municipal operations in the city of Mountain View, but for everyone who lives and works here.” She says that the city has allocated $7.5 million over the next few years to work on reducing Mountain View’s carbon footprint.

“The fourth goal is being a community for all and protecting vulnerable populations. Given what’s happening at the federal government level and given the diversity in Mountain View, we want to help those who might feel vulnerable or who might need a little bit of help at this point in time, given the insecurities they might have about being in the U.S.,” Matichak says.

Going forward, Matichak will once again be a council member when her term as mayor ends and she is likely to run for re-election for a second four-year term. Next year, she intends to return to the tech industry she’s been part of for 30 years. Over those three decades, she’s seen many changes.

The biggest?

“With the advent of mobile phones and then autonomous vehicles, I feel like how we used to do things day in and day out is dramatically different today, and will be dramatically different in the future than it was when I first started in the tech industry,” Matichak says. As for her recent work in cybersecurity, one can’t help but wonder about concerns the industry-veteran-turned-mayor might have.

“Cybersecurity is a fascinating industry to work in because it’s incredibly fast-paced and changing. And the bad guys are always trying to come up with new ways to do evil. It has made me very paranoid about doing things online,” she says, adding that while she might order something from Amazon, she won’t do any online banking.

“I think having a career in business and an education in business [makes me] different than a lot of folks who get into local government,” Matichak says of her Anderson education and private-sector career. “And I think the analytical approach — the scenario planning, tools that you learn in school and in business — local governments don’t always use. So, I do like to rely on that, and I try to bring it into local government to improve the city operations.”

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