Nineteen years ago, Christopher Cabaldon was serving as mayor of West Sacramento after being selected by his city council peers (he first won a council seat in 1996). He also was vice chancellor of the California Community Colleges System. Cabaldon, then 34 and a rising star in local politics, landed on the cover for a story headlined “A Tale of Two Cities” because of the waterfront developments on the west side of the Sacramento River, including the landmark ziggurat building completed in 1998 and Raley Field, the 11,000-seat stadium for the Sacramento River Cats (then a Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s and now a San Francisco Giants affiliate).
“The economic and cultural benefits for the waterfront district are clear,” Cabaldon said then. “This project brings West Sacramento onto the regional scene, from an insular community, focused on our own problems, to one very much engaged, and contributing solutions to regional issues.”
Cabaldon said West Sacramento, which incorporated in 1987, “is young enough to still remember what it was like when it wasn’t a city. Back then, there was a siege mentality; we were like an island that neither Yolo County nor the capital knew what to make of.”
Cabaldon, now 53, was the first mayor directly elected by West Sacramento voters in November 2004 and has been re-elected every two years since. Cabaldon, also featured on the covers of Comstock’s August 2003 and November 2017 issues, has become nearly synonymous with West Sacramento.
Under his leadership, the city has continued to thrive. The Southport Town Center, anchored by a Nugget Market, opened in 2004, serving the growing area to the south. Two years later, Ikea opened as the anchor in Riverpoint Marketplace, drawing shoppers from across the Central Valley. The Bridge District, which extends from the Tower Bridge to Interstate 80, has a range of housing options and easy access to I-80 and I-5. It’s also home to The Barn, a distinctive entertainment venue operated by Drake’s Brewing since October 2018 that includes
PizzaSmith restaurant, an outdoor bar and a 400-seat beer garden. Cabaldon, who lives about a half-block from The Barn, calls it “a magical experience” that’s “generationally a new way of connecting,” because it draws not only adults for the beer, pizza and music on three stages, but also their children who can play in the meadow.
Among the many projects in West Sacramento, Cabaldon is perhaps most excited about the bridge that will replace the I Street Bridge and connect Washington Square in his city to Sacramento’s Railyards. Cabaldon points to the Sundial Bridge in Redding as an example of what he hopes to see. “It will continue to create synergy between both sides of the river,” he says. “It has to be a fairly spectacular structure … an iconic statement.”
When Cabaldon is asked what he is most proud of, he doesn’t hesitate. “I think when it comes down to it … the expectations and confidence of the city compared to where we were a generation ago,” he says. “West Sacramentans are proud of who they are and know the city can keep getting better. … Raley Field changed the waterfront and changed our image, … (but) we do something on that scale every year now.”
As for his future, all the mayor will say is that “every election is that decision. … It’s been a life calling, and I love the work.”
This is the fourth installment in a five-part retrospective series on past Comstock’s magazine cover subjects in celebration of our 30th anniversary. To see all of our 30th anniversary coverage, click or tap here.
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