After graduating from University of California, Berkeley Law School in 1971, Judy Kleinberg entered a legal world that “just wasn’t ready for women.”
An experience in a firm, which Kleinberg said will remain anonymous, “ruined the practice of law in a firm for me,” she said. “It was the early 1970s and a lot of the big law firms had a very, very, very small number of women – most of them relegated to probate.”
This may have soured him on or to practice law, but that did not prevent Kleinberg from using his experience to pursue a career in education, journalism, nonprofit organizations and politics as a member of the city council and mayor of Palo Alto. And after nearly three decades of serving the city, Kleinberg is awarded the ATHENA Award for Leadership by the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce for his outstanding contributions to the community.
The ATHENA Awards are an international program that started in 1982 to recognize outstanding leaders, especially professional and business women. Almost 8,000 people have received the award since its inception. Locally, female tech executives, a health advocate, a police chief and leaders of nonprofit organizations have received the award in recent years.
“It’s a huge honor,” Kleinberg told this news agency. “The professional women who have been recipients over the past few years, before I was even in the House, are such a stellar, accomplished and phenomenal group of women. I would not have imagined that I would be in this group.
A core philosophy has guided the lawyer’s kaleidoscopic contributions to Palo Alto since she moved here in 1984.
“It was something as simple as giving back,” she said. “I was raised in a Quaker parish school as a child in Rhode Island, and a Quaker commitment to community service and ethical living permeated me. I also had a mother who was dedicated to community organizations. So I grew up both at home and at school. “
Kleinberg’s involvement with Palo Alto dates back almost 40 years when she became an active member of the local Parents’ Association, helping to raise funds for the Palo Alto Unified School District.
In 1994 Kleinberg developed Safer Summer, a program that gave teens like his two children, who inspired the idea at the time, a safe place to meet outside of school.
Her influence in Palo Alto quickly grew when she took over the governance of the city. In 1999, Kleinberg garnered the most votes of all the candidates vying for a city council post which she now admits she initially didn’t want. Her specialty was law and it was the area where she believed she could make the most difference – not as a politician.
“I was constantly encouraged by other women. I had no interest in being on the board,” she said. “I think in the end I was asked so many times, but I didn’t want to run until my kids were out of the house.… Once they were out of the house, I ‘Said,’ OK, I will, and I’m going to run because I love this community. ‘”
Kleinberg said he was a supporter of alternative urban transportation, climate change initiatives and affordable housing. In 2007, the council elected her mayor. Kleinberg was also invited to run for the state assembly, but declined.
“It was really more about my community here,” she said.
During and after her tenure on the board, Kleinberg assumed leadership roles in a multitude of Bay Area organizations and nonprofits: executive director of Kids in Common and TechAmerica, president of the American Heart Association of Palo Alto and the Santa Clara County Cities Association, vice president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley and InSTEDD, and most recently president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, among other positions.
“Kleinberg has shown incredible energy and passion to run the House,” said Charlie Weidanz, CEO of the House who also took on the role of Speaker from Kleinberg when she stepped down. “It was a time where she put (in) her energy and was able to promote greater awareness of the economics of our businesses.”
When she took on the dual role in 2014, Kleinberg hoped to revive the chamber’s relevance and, with her legal training, revive the organization’s role in legislative advocacy on behalf of small and medium-sized businesses. The chamber worked with Stanford University’s government affairs office and its legislative advocacy program, Kleinberg said.
When asked if she feels capable of bringing the bedroom into the 21st century, Kleinberg replied that she had – at least before the pandemic.
As the COVID-19 crisis began to ravage local businesses, Kleinberg drew on her previous experience as Vice President, COO, CFO and General Counsel of InSTEDD or Innovative Support to Emergencies. , Diseases & Disasters, which was founded by Google. org, the philanthropic arm of Google.
“So when I joined the chamber I said we need to work on business resilience,” Kleinberg said. “We tried several things. Not all of them were successful.”
Throughout the pandemic, the House acted as a resource for local business owners who helped guide them through the process of obtaining federal and state loans, establishing a social media presence. when businesses got online and kept up with ever-changing local health metrics.
“As President and CEO of the Chamber, she was the architect who developed these initiatives,” Weidanz said.
Kleinberg retired from his position in the House in March.
“It had to do with my 75th birthday,” she said.
Even so, Kleinberg said she is not looking to retire yet. Her next project is to be determined, but she hopes to continue to occupy positions on boards of directors, to support startups and to work with boards of directors on issues of governance, conflicts of interest and ethics.
Kleinberg will receive the Athena Prize on September 22. Due to pandemic restrictions, only former Athena Prize winners will attend the ceremony.