2021 Nature’s Inspiration Honorees: Blanca Alvarado and Rod Diridon, Sr.

The power of our community and the local natural landscapes, farmlands, and parks we protect together are reasons to celebrate—even more so after the past year. Green Foothills’ annual celebration, Nature’s Inspiration, brings us together to recognize the achievements of those who have dedicated their lives to protecting the natural environment and connecting people to the outdoors.

We are pleased to announce our 18th annual Nature’s Inspiration will be held virtually on Sunday, October 3rd. Join this community celebration and enjoy live musical performances from famed musicians and guest appearances by prominent local leaders.

This year our Nature’s Inspiration honorees are two individuals who have committed their lives to public service, community, and the environment: Blanca Alvarado and Rod Diridon, Sr. For more than half a century, these two former Santa Clara County Supervisors have dared to blaze trails that have profoundly shaped the county’s landscape leaving an enduring legacy of environmental protection and stewardship.

 

About Our Honorees

 

Blanca Alvarado

A coal miner’s daughter born in Cokedale, Colorado, Blanca’s family moved to California with the hope of a better life. As a young adult, she co-hosted the first Spanish-English bilingual radio program in Northern California where she emphasized the need for the Latinx community to get involved in civic affairs and brought attention to the plight of Valley laborers.

In 1980 – after raising five children and working for the County Department of Social Services and the Center for Employment Training – Blanca entered the world of public service. A lifelong trailblazer breaking the glass ceiling for women and Latinx leaders, Blanca Alvarado was the first Latina elected to the San Jose City Council in 1980 representing East San Jose in the city’s first district election. During her 14 years on the Council, she served two terms as the city’s first Latina vice mayor and worked to address the disproportionate investment in other parts of the city. From 1995 through 2008, she served on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and was the first Latina to serve as the Board’s chairperson.

Blanca is a passionate champion of the arts and spearheaded the founding of the Mexican Heritage Plaza. She worked to reduce disproportionate representation in the juvenile detention system and partnered with Cesar Chavez to create the Community Services Organization. She later championed changing the name of San Jose’s Plaza Park to Plaza de Cesar E. Chavez and creating a County holiday in Chavez’s honor. She served on many regional bodies, including Chairing the Valley Transportation Authority.

Blanca has been a lifelong conservationist and environmentalist and has used her voice and influence to secure funding for the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. She chaired multiple campaigns in support of the County Parks Charter Fund, secured funding for trails and open space in East San Jose and throughout the County, protected Santa Clara County’s greenbelt; supported the Habitat Conservation Plan; served for 14-years on LAFCO and was a reliable board member vote to promote compact, efficient urban development while preserving the unincorporated lands for prime agriculture and open space; and served as chair of the Riparian Values Education Roundtable.

Celebrating her 90th birthday this year, she has not slowed down. She is a vocal advocate for protecting Juristac, sacred lands for the Amah Mutsun Tribe and a critical wildlife corridor southwest of Gilroy. And in 2018 she launched the environmental justice campaign to close Reid Hillview, a small airport in East San Jose that has impacted residents and students for decades with airborne lead poisoning, pollution, and noise. Her vision, and that of much of the community, is for this 180-acre site to become much-needed affordable housing, social and educational services and include wildlife habitat and a nature park.

She has received many honors and recognitions. In 2005, she was awarded the Ohtli Award by the government of Mexico and was also recognized in the United States House of Representatives for her achievements.

Green Foothills is pleased to honor Blanca Alvarado, La Madrina of East San Jose.

After a BS and MSBA at SJSU and two Vietnam combat tours as a naval officer, Rod Diridon Sr. began his political career in 1971 when elected the youngest-ever Saratoga City Councilmember. From 1975 to 1995, he served five terms, six times as chair of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and Transit Board.

A lifelong environmental champion, in 1978 Rod led three other Supervisors abruptly halting the Valley’s rampant sprawl by freezing subdivisions outside city urban service areas. He and Supervisors McCorquodale and Steinberg faced a vicious, developer-led recall and won with environmental support. He co-chaired the early 1970s County Parks Charter Fund and championed the purchase of an open space buffer around the urban areas. He is most proud of increasing the County parks from 800 to over 43,000 acres. He helped negotiate legislation authorizing and campaigned for the Valley’s Open Space Authority. In 1979, he presided over the development of the Nation’s first Integrated Environmental Management Plan and Regional Transportation Master Plan as President of the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Rod has focused his leadership on countless issues including climate, the environment, arts and culture, higher education, community organizations, and philanthropy. Perhaps of most note is his leadership for public transportation, chairing over 100 transportation and sustainability programs at the international to the local level. Upon his retirement from public office, the San Jose Diridon Station was dedicated in his honor.

Rod chaired the County’s League of Conservation Voters for almost 20 years, building the organization into a major political force that educates and endorses candidates for local office. He is a Life and Muir Society member of the Sierra Club, chairs the SV Ethics Roundtable and the regional Rotary Climate Action Council. He is a vocal advocate for climate action internationally and actively supports the local campaigns to protect Juristac, save Coyote Valley, and close the Reid-Hillview Airport.

Rod is proud of his daughter, counselor and composer/performer Mary “Diri” Diridon, and her children Allie and Aaron and son, Apple Senior Manager Rod and SJSU Development ED Sabra Diridon, with twins Avery and Roddy. Rod and wife, Commonwealth Club President Dr. Gloria Duffy, are ridiculously happy in their Santa Clara home with 34 solar panels, two Teslas, and overgrown with 32 fruit trees, a home garden, and happy grandchildren. The family strives diligently to sustain a wonderful future for Earth.

Green Foothills is pleased to honor Rod Diridon, Sr., the “godfather” of transit in Silicon Valley.

 

What You Can Do

 

Nature’s Inspiration underwrites 30% of Green Foothills’ annual expenses and we depend on funds raised from this event. Please fill out this pledge form to let us know you will sponsor our 2021 Nature’s Inspiration. Our full sponsorship benefits package will be available in May. Tickets will be available for purchase in August.

We can’t wait to celebrate our honorees, Blanca and Rod, this fall with you. Thank you for your support of Green Foothills annual celebration, Nature’s Inspiration!

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