Introducing Kevin Wilk: Walnut Creek's Next MayorNov 05, 2020 08:35AM ● By Pam Kessler
At A Glance
Next month, Kevin Wilk will be sworn in as Walnut Creek’s 2021 Mayor. While this is his first time serving as the city’s top elected official, Wilk is not new to city government. Appointed to the Transportation Commission in 2008, Wilk spent eight years working on increased parking downtown, improved traffic flow on Ygnacio Valley Road, and developing a bicycle master plan. Prior to that, he spent six years on the Arts Commission where he led efforts to implement Walnut Creek’s Public Art Master Plan. In 2016, Wilk was elected to the City Council where he advanced green energy policies, raised an LGBTQ Pride Flag over City Hall, created a free downtown WIFI network, and led a diversity anti-bias and inclusivity task force.
Professionally, Wilks’ 30-plus year career in technology has ranged from large corporations, like Microsoft and Yahoo, to small-scale start-ups and his own consulting business. Before that, he worked in the restaurant industry, doing everything from waiting tables to starting LA's first food delivery service.
Why did you run for office?
I have a 40-year history with—and passion for—Walnut Creek. It’s a city with a special quality of life. My family has lived in the community since 1973. I graduated from Del Valle High School and later UCLA, and after living in Europe for a few years, I returned to Walnut Creek with my wife Jill and raised our two children, Darielle and Shane, here. With my parents still living here, I want Walnut Creek to be a wonderful place for people of all ages. There are challenges ahead for sure, but our business and residential communities are resilient, and together, we’re going to move forward successfully.
What makes you qualified to lead in these tough times? How will you turn things around?
Four years on the City Council set a certain baseline for understanding the needs of the city and the community, but my background in technology and innovation has me thinking of ways that move beyond standard operating protocol to thinking outside of the box. We need to shift our focus from being purely “policy-first" to one of "policy/business development-first.” As a city, we need to help guide new and existing businesses to choose Walnut Creek over other places and smooth the path for them to open their doors here... and keep them open. Our staff, planning department, code enforcement, among others, need to start wearing “business development” hats and make it easy to do business here.
We are going to see many business closures in the months ahead...some estimates are 30% or higher downtown. In that type of environment, a vacant storefront may be vacant for years. We must work with landlords and tenants to help them find ways to keep their space occupied during the rough times ahead.
Besides building a better business environment, what are some of your goals for the community?
We had to put infrastructure on the back burner while we took care of Covid-related issues. Now we need to bring that forward again, prioritizing the “Your Parks, Your Future” project that ensures parks, pools, community facilities, and other programs best serve the community well into the future. As we have learned to live our lives in a more restrictive way, we will work on ways to safely enjoy the benefits of living in Walnut Creek at our libraries, theater, and outdoor activities.
How will you get this done?
City Councilmembers have individual outlooks, but we all have the same general desires: we want Walnut Creek to be the best possible city for our residents to enjoy a top-notch quality of life. The differences among us are how we get to that outcome. Collaborating with people from a diverse set of viewpoints and getting buy-in from people who might not see eye to eye is something I consider as a strength of mine. I’m available and accessible to the community and willing to have difficult conversations, build bridges, and help residents thrive.
How much longer will the City Council conduct its meetings virtually?
Nothing beats an in-person meeting, but meeting virtually has allowed the government to continue, along with input from the public. I would like City Council meetings to happen at City Hall again because protocols are more readily followed in person. It also sends a message that Walnut Creek is open for business.