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Christopher Cabaldon

Senior Fellow

Christopher Cabaldon led West Sacramento as its mayor for a record-setting two decades, transforming what was a forgotten old-industrial town into what is now the fast-growing, entrepreneurial city at the forefront an emerging American metro—a story told in Governing’s feature “Small City, Big Goals: How an Unconventional Mayor is Beating the System”. The Sacramento Bee reports “West Sacramento is making others jealous. It has the fastest rising median income since 2000 of the 25 communities analyzed and had the fastest rising home values.” Cited as "America's most interesting small city", “America’s most livable small city”, and one of the world's "21 Smart Cities to Watch", West Sacramento under his leadership deployed entrepreneurial strategies to tackle social challenges with how-did-a-little-city-do-that innovations.

The first mayor ever elected directly by the city’s voters, his groundbreaking initiatives on urban farms, universal preschool, flood protection and floodplain management, college and career pathway internships, free college, sustainable land use, and next-gen transit and personal mobility have made it to the national and international stage. Globally, he has been a featured speaker at the World Urban Forum, the New Cities Summit, the Innovation Growth Lab, the Global Parliament of Mayors, and the Mayors' Food Policy Compact.

At the US Conference of Mayors, he chaired the Jobs, Education & the Workforce Committee, leading the work of the nation's mayors on youth employment, college and career pathways, early learning, digital badging, and rebooting workforce development to meet the disruptive impact of trade and technology. He was inaugural chair of the national LGBTQ Mayors Alliance, and former chair of both the Asian/Pacific and LGBT caucuses of the League of California Cities. His journey out of the closet was the subject of an episode of the Logo network’s internationally-syndicated Coming Out Stories series. A column on gay marriage he wrote for USA Today with Julian Castro and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was cited as evidence of changing social norms in cases cementing marriage equality in US jurisprudence. He has also written columns and op-eds for the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

An appointed official for five governors of both political parties, Cabaldon currently represents California on the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education. He served previously as vice chancellor of the California Community Colleges and director of the state legislature’s higher education committee. He was national president for Asian and Pacific Americans in Higher Education.

As chair of the Sacramento region’s metropolitan planning organization and its transportation committee, his pioneering work on integrating transportation, land use, environmental justice, housing, air quality, and climate change has won numerous federal government and other national awards, and became the basis for some of California’s most sweeping transportation and climate reforms of the past two decades.

In 2019, Cabaldon was appointed to a tenured faculty post at Sacramento State University as the Hazel Cramer Endowed Chair and Professor of Public Policy and Administration. He earned a B.S. in environmental economics from UC Berkeley and a M.P.P.A. from Sacramento State.