Honoring a history of ‘creating change’

Philanthropists Les and Judy Vadász will share the role of this year’s Sonoma’s Alcalde, a ceremonial title recognizing outstanding community service. While the honor rewards selfless, behind-the-scenes work, the couple will get its very deserved moment in the spotlight at the annual Alcalde reception, Thursday, January 31.

The two met when both where working at an electronics company near Boston, in the early 60′s. As Judy tells it, this was Les’ first job as an engineer, and she was a summer intern.

“He brought his work to me,” says Judy, “as he continues to do.”

They got married, Judy continued, when Les accepted a job with Fairchild, in the Bay Area, in 1964. Their two sons, Jeff and Dave were born in California. While Judy worked in the travel business and later in the counseling department at their local high school in Los Altos, her main job was to manage a family with two growing boys.

In 1968, Les was asked to join the start-up team of Intel, where he spent the next 35 years, retiring in 2003. Intel became a major success story, and Les’ roles were many: heading up Engineering; running Business Operations, creating Intel’s Venture Capital operation: and serving as member of the Board of Directors.

In 1997, they bought land in Sonoma, built a new home, and developed a vineyard. Without much forethought, “the vineyard ‘just happened,” according to Judy. “Wineries were short on grapes and people asked us to plant, so we did.”

Today, they farm close to 70 acres and count a number of excellent wineries as their customers. “Judy is the Chief Vineyard Officer,” says Les.

Replies Judy, “As I said, he continues to brings me his work.”

Today, philanthropic investments take up a significant part of their lives. Their focus can be defined in two words: “education” and “local.”

“There are many needs around the world, but you don’t have to go further than your own neighborhood to invest and create some needed change,” says Judy. And, “education is the great equalizer,” feels Les. “We must do a better job for our kids. ”

It has been a long journey for Les and Judy Vadasz, she concludes. Along the way, Les served on a Presidential Advisory Committee, was Member of a National Research Council Board, is a Life Fellow of IEEE, lectured at both Harvard and Stanford Business Schools. He is on the Board of a number of Silicon Valley start-ups.

Both are active in various local non-profit projects. Les, who was born in Hungary, and left during the uprising in 1956, and Judy, who was born in Nebraska will be celebrating their 49th wedding anniversary this year. And they are as busy as ever.

Says Judy, “We need to retire again.”

The Alcalde reception will be held Thursday, January 31, 5:30 p.m. at Vintage House, 264 First St. E. There is no charge to attend the event; donations of $10 are encouraged, at the door. For additional information, contact City Clerk Gay Johann at 933.2216.

What’s an Alcalde?

In 19th-century California, the position of Alcalde was one of great importance. The Alcalde acted as a mayor, the chief law enforcement officer, judge, notary, tax collector, hide inspector, and in some cases teacher of the pueblo. The Alcalde’s symbol of authority was a silver-headed cane. If the Alcalde himself was unable to attend an official function his cane would be sent in his place. In 1975 the Sonoma City Council decided to make naming of an Honorary Alcalde an annual means of recognizing individuals in the community who had made unselfish contributions to the welfare of Sonoma.

The criteria for the ceremonial title include: A broad spectrum of voluntary community service to Sonoma Valley; service in a leadership role in at least one non-profit organization; has spearheaded at least one community-serving project without compensation; is well-known for consistent behind-the-scenes good deeds; does not seek public accolades or recognition for work done; and adheres to a high standard of moral and ethical values

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