FIRST 5 Santa Clara County

Chief Executive Officer
Location: San Jose, CA

FIRST 5 Santa Clara County seeks a dynamic, inquisitive, and highly collaborative leader to serve as its next Chief Executive Officer. Working closely with the FIRST 5 Santa Clara County Commission and leading a talented staff of more than 50 professionals, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) will lead efforts to align the organization’s grantmaking, resources, and advocacy with shifting community needs. This is particularly important as County communities—mirroring the national moment—seek to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic while advancing racial justice, social equity, and economic mobility. This is an exciting opportunity for a committed and seasoned executive to leverage FIRST 5 Santa Clara County’s 20+ year momentum to ensure all children ages 0-5 and their families throughout Santa Clara County have equitable access to care, education, and health services.

FIRST 5 Santa Clara County (FIRST 5) is one of 58 First 5 Commissions across California, which directs funds from a special tobacco tax for the benefit of young children and their families. It is the sixth-largest Commission in the state, serving a county-wide population of 1.93 million. Santa Clara County has a unique population, split almost evenly between those who identify as Latinx, Asian-American/Pacific Islander, and White. Importantly, three-fourths of children ages zero to five in the county are children of color. It will be critical that the next CEO of FIRST 5 understands these dynamics and ensures that the organization and its partners continue to invest in culturally responsive and relevant programs and services. In this way, FIRST 5 finds itself at a moment of evolution as the broader Santa Clara County community, reflecting national conversations around racial injustice and disparities, works to build community power for all citizens and noncitizens.

Building on the success of a founding CEO who has led the organization for more than two decades and established FIRST 5 as a regional and statewide leader in programming, policy change, and community collaboration, the new leader will direct the next chapter of growth and maturation. Under the direction of the FIRST 5 Santa Clara County Commission, the CEO will work to strengthen the organization’s financial sustainability, lead the development of new planning and innovations, and co-create the future vision for FIRST 5 along with the external partners and staff. Declining revenue from tobacco sales means that FIRST 5 will have to reexamine how it raises funds from third parties and how it provides grants and sponsors programs. The next CEO will lead this external engagement, working to secure new funding and identify opportunities to partner with organizations that maximize impact and unlock shared potential. The CEO will also further develop the organizational structure and systems that ensure a working environment in which all of the organization’s personnel can thrive.

More than just a standalone organization, FIRST 5 functions as a true organism of the communities it serves. Community-based organizations, school systems, county government, and families all plug into FIRST 5 in various ways—from program to services to policy development. The organization serves as a critical regional convener to advance new ideas and share information. Family Resources Centers (FRCs)—where many programs and services are offered to community members—are truly embedded in neighborhoods and schools. These centers are a shining example of the collaboration between FIRST 5 and communities, with many staff and institutional partners identifying them as growth opportunities. Many FRCs are managed by and co-located with community-based organizations like schools, direct services providers, or cultural centers. FRCs serve as hubs for many of the education programs, trainings, social services, and convenings sponsored by FIRST 5. In this sense they embody the best that FIRST 5 has to offer: providing services that are core to its mission while bringing people together to innovate. It is a county-wide infrastructure that is both powerful and unique among all other FIRST 5s in the state.

The ideal candidate is expected to have a bachelor’s degree and at least ten years of progressive experience working with community-based organizations, anchor institutions, and/or policy-setting groups to further positive social change. An advanced degree (MPA, MPP, MSW) or related certification is desirable, but not required. The successful candidate will have demonstrated expertise in designing and developing community programs/projects, experience working with boards or commissions of complex organizations, and proven ability to build and maintain cross-sector collaborative partnerships. A proven track record of convening diverse groups to identify, pursue, and achieve shared missions and goals is a must. A background in early childhood development, policy, education, or health is ideal, but those with a strong passion for young children and families and a commitment to social, racial, and health equity are encouraged to apply.

Previous experience working in a complex organization, preferably in collaborative environments (associations, networks, coalitions, etc.) is highly desired, as is the maturity to successfully navigate and collaborate with a kaleidoscope of organizations and community leaders with different missions. The successful candidate will be a strong relationship builder. Excellent organizational and interpersonal skills are necessary, including the curiosity and open-mindedness to work with diverse communities and promote new ideas. Strong verbal and written communications skills are required. A personal and professional commitment to equity and inclusiveness is critical.

Frequently Asked Questions

The FIRST 5 Santa Clara County Commission through its Executive Leadership Transition Committee has developed this set of Frequently Asked Questions about the CEO search.

Application Instructions

FIRST 5 Santa Clara County has retained Talent Citizen, an executive search and consulting firm in pursuit of positive social impact with equity at its center, to assist in this recruitment. A firm with national reach, Talent Citizen also has a local presence in Santa Clara County. President Tracy D. Welsh, Senior Associate Rachel K. Partin, and Senior Associate Connor Daley are leading this search.

Candidates should email a resume/CV and a cover letter outlining your interest, the reasons why you are best suited to the position and would be a great addition to the FIRST 5 team, and where you learned of the position to

Nominations of potential candidates and any questions about the search should be emailed directly to Senior Associate Connor Daley (

PLEASE NOTE: FIRST 5 Santa Clara County is a public entity. While all nominations and applications to Talent Citizen will be confidential, candidates who proceed to advanced interview stages with the FIRST 5 Santa Clara County Commission and/or additional stakeholders should be prepared to engage in public conversations/disclosure before a hiring decision is made.

The Talent Citizen Search Team

Tracy D. Welsh

President | She/Her
Full Bio

Rachel K. Partin

Managing Associate | She/Her
Full Bio