Main story: City council appoints Jachimowicz to vacant seat on dais
Attorney raised in Morgan Hill chosen from group of 30 applicants
Published in the February 1 – 14, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life
By Marty Cheek
A month ago, Caitlin Robinett Jachimowicz believed she would be a long-shot to get appointed to the Morgan Hill City Council seat left vacant when former council member Gordon Siebert moved to Nashville. Last week at the Jan. 25 meeting, she raised her hand and was sworn in as the city’s newest public official.
Council members interviewed a field of 30 applicants at the Jan. 11 council meeting where they narrowed the selection to a choice of four candidates — Danielle Davenport, Carol Fredrickson, John McKay and Jachimowicz. After a second interview process at the Jan. 18 meeting, the council unanimously voted for the longtime Morgan Hill resident to join them on the dais.
Jachimowicz, 32, grew up in Morgan Hill and attended Jackson Elementary School, Britton Middle School and Live Oak High School, where she graduated in 2002. That year, she was selected as the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce’s Student of the Year. She studied journalism at Cal Poly, then transferred to Seattle University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies in 2006. She earned her law degree from Santa Clara University School of Law in 2010. It was there that she met her husband, Joshua Jachimowicz. Since 2014, she has been a criminal attorney at the San Jose-based Jachimowicz/Pointer Attorneys at Law.
Her interested in local government grew from her experience studying at the Panetta Institute for Public Policy in Monterey as well as a year working as a congressional assistant for Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.
Remembering fondly her 18 years growing up in Morgan Hill, she and Joshua moved back to her hometown about two years ago when they had a baby girl named Penelope. Seeing the way the world was changing based on the outcome in November’s election and how it might affect Penelope’s future as well as that of other children, Jachimowicz made the decision to apply for the vacant city council seat.
“Regardless of what your politics are, there was a lot of upsetting language around women and minorities in the election,” she said. “And so I laid in bed that night and instead of being sad, I was up all night thinking, ‘OK, this is my action plan. What do I do? Do I call Zoe and say, Send me to D.C., I want to go back to work for you?’ And I thought that wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
She had not considered running for the city council in the 2016 election because the intense campaigning would take time away from being a mother and her work. But when Siebert announced his resignation from the council and the application process started in December, she saw the opportunity to use her policy and law training at the local level. She has not yet decided if she will run for city council in 2018 when the seat is open for election. Right now, she’s in the “baby steps” phase of public service, she said.
“There’s so much to learn and I have so much material to go through that I want to be confident (about running),” she said. “I think in going through the process I made a promise and I made a commitment that I want to be a future leader of Morgan Hill.”
She is optimistic about the direction that her hometown is taking and hopes her leadership on the city council will help it continue to be a place where families can safely and happily raise children as her parents did with her and her older sister, Courtney.
“I’m really proud of Morgan Hill and I’m really proud of the changes that have happened in my lifetime. I think we’re heading in the right direction,” she said.
Much of Jachimowicz’s leadership style as an appointed council member will be based on her communications studies and work in law. It was in these areas where she learned to really listen to what people say and ask for more information from experts before making a decision, she said.
“A good leader gets other people engaged and gets information from the people around them,” she said. “None of us can be experts in everything, that’s one of the things I learned when I was taking the bar. Nobody goes into the bar exam knowing everything on every subject. You go in knowing as much as you can. In real life you have the opportunity to ask a question, and I think people are sometimes afraid of appearing like they don’t know everything when in reality I think people prefer you to be honest about what you know and what you don’t know.”
She describes her leadership style as “collaborative,” and intends to set a tone where she will connect with city staff and the public to better understand often complicated issues to determine what is best.
“It’s easy to say I want to do this, but in reality you have to have conversations about what have you tried and what works,” she said. “This is the outcome I want to see, help me see how we can get there together rather than dictate the way you have to do it.”
During the interview process, she described her three top priorities as “safety, scenery and success.” Public safety is No. 1. One area she would like to see the city focus on working on is “community-supported” traffic reduction ideas for the downtown that allows pedestrians to be safe without impacting retail stores and restaurant commerce. Scenery is about land use and growth control issues for Morgan Hill, a heated topic for the region in the Nov. 8 election. And success involves working with local schools and the business community to make sure children are well educated and the community sees a thriving economy.
Growth control will continue to be a major area of concern for the entire region, and she’s pleased the voters had the foresight to pass measures starting in the mid-1970s that make sure the quality of life is not impacted by urban sprawl.
“We’re doing a good job, but we do need to be aware that we have a regional housing crisis,” she said. “There are many people my age who cannot afford to move back to Morgan Hill. They can’t afford to live here.”