Les and Judy Vadasz were honored at a city of Sonoma reception Thursday night as they officially began their roles as Alcalde and Alcaldessa—honorary mayor and mayoress of the city.
About 200 community members attended the event at Vintage House Senior Center. County Supervisor Susan Gorin was among those who spoke, thanking the couple for their extensive philanthropy. Mayor Ken Brown was master of ceremonies. Whitney Evans, the 2012 Alcalde, was there to hand over the responsibility of the roles. The new alcaldes will now represent the city at local public events.
The Vadaszs have contributed to at least 24 non-profit organizations in Sonoma, among them Friends in Sonoma Helping (FISH), Meals on Wheels, Sonoma Ecology Center, Vintage House, La Luz, Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, Sonoma Mentoring Alliance and Sonoma Plein Air Association. The couple recently pledged a challenge grant of $2 million for upgrades to Sonoma Valley Hospital. Representatives from some of these groups spoke at Thursday's event. El Verano Elementary School Glee Club sang a humorous song recognizing the couple's contributions to local schools.
The Vadaszs are known for being quietly spoken and shy about limelight.
"This honor is very humbling," Judy Vadasz said softly from the podium. At one point, she paused with emotion which took away her voice as she told a touching story about her father. She said she was his campaign manager years ago, when he decided to run for mayor on a whim in another city where they lived. She said he didn't come in last, but he didn't win.
"So, he would have been proud to know that Les and I are now honorary mayors here," she said. Applause erupted and she chuckled, regaining her voice and continuing.
If Judy Vadasz's acceptance speech was poignant and deferential—"I'd like to introduce my husband, Les, who is the one who really deserves to be Alcalde"—Les Vadasz's speech became serious, with a call to action, from a man known for service and hard work. Vadasz was part of the founding team of Intel Corporation and served in various engineering and management positions with the company, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.
"There's a lot being done by a lot of us," he told Sonomans on Thursday night. "That's the great news. But there's more work to be done."
Vadasz spoke of the need for healthcare and referenced statistics about young children's lack of reading ability.
"Education is the scaffolding of the future," he said.
"We're lucky that we all feel a responsibility here," he said of Sonoma residents.
Then he ended with a big smile.
"If you hear a knock on your door with that new cane that I have, you know why I'm calling."