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November 1-7, 2006

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Mayoral Makeovers

By Joseph Rosenfeld

PHYSICAL appearance, clothing and personal styles do not represent one's ethical ethos. Many politicians seem to be straightforward looking; however, clean-cut looks are overcome when unseemly, behind-the-scenes dealings are exposed. Reputation and perception are defeated by disgraceful behavior. What can be expressed through one's style of dress is one's ability to lead, the strength of one's character and an image that personifies a population.

The style problems of Chuck Reed—he of the famous flag tie—are those of many in Silicon Valley. His persona lacks a polished image that aptly represents himself and the people and industries of San Jose to the rest of the world.

Not all is lost on the leading candidate, however. Reed seems naturally analytical and is inclined to completely understand a situation before offering a stand. He appears determined to succeed, has high self-confidence and likes to be in charge. Though these leaderlike traits are ambiguous to an amateur eye, Reed could make them more obvious by putting more effort into the way he dresses. Chuck Reed is a candidate for mayor of one of the largest cities in the United States, not a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. The look of a Red State Westerner needs to give way to a man who is imaginative and open-minded—two traits San Jose needs in its next leader.

It seems like a local phenomenon that someone with such a conservative and dated image would be the top vote-getter in a primary election in San Jose. This, in an area where nearly everybody cares about how sleek their iPod is, how crisp their plasma TV picture is and how their house stacks up to their neighbors' properties, is astounding. Flip through any local publication and see the avalanche of advertisements for anything from micro-derm-abrasions to full-out face-lifts. Does anyone in San Jose care about the way in which they are perceived? Of course, the answer is that many do but are afraid to admit or show that they do. It's long overdue for San Jose to come out of its bedroom community attitude, and step into the 21st century that it has helped the world create. We must do this by starting with our leaders, who not only need to have great ideas—and ethics—but also be able to communicate that they are in step with these very fast-moving times.

Now take a look at Cindy Chavez. What sort of municipality would she seemingly represent? Her high-contrast-colored clothing (and occasional floral motifs) seems much more "Mom Meets Middle Management" than "Executive Extraordinaire." If she does take the city's top seat, Ms. Chavez would do well to step up her style. As a candidate who campaigns as being more progressive than her opponent, she's got some explaining to do in the style department.

Certainly, the vice mayor exhibits traits you'd expect of a busy leader in a community as spread out and as diverse as San Jose. One of those characteristics is her ability to take on a variety of activities each day. The desire for daily adventure is accented by restlessness. That she's not complacent to sit still suggests that as mayor she could work enthusiastically with a diverse population. Additionally, she's a preservationist and values her relationships with others. Her ties to the outgoing mayor and her delicate dancing as a political operative seem to obscure her more favorable abilities.

So what would I suggest for her Mayoral Makeover? Ms. Chavez should try to look more open to others by wearing colors that are welcoming. She could dress a bit more creatively, highlighting her sense of independence, and lose the dramatic high-contrast outfits that are out of step with her characteristics and coloring. She should stop hiding behind the shaded glasses she's wearing on her election website photo and wear her other more interesting styles. Also, she should develop a wardrobe that works for the day-to-evening lifestyle that she naturally prefers to maintain and that is appropriate to the office she seeks.

San Jose is at a crossroads. This city needs to determine how it will grow and be vibrant. A modern downtown, replete with shiny skyscrapers and a bustling retail corridor, is not the only indicator to the world that a great city has developed. This vision comes from its citizens and leaders. Whichever mayoral candidate is elected by the people, contenders Chavez and Reed should get their images in step with San Jose's desire to be a world-class metropolis.

Joseph Rosenfeld, AICI, CIP is a men's image mentor based in downtown San Jose. Contact him at: [email protected]

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