Two candidates challenge Dave Hudson for San Ramon mayor

Councilwoman Sabina Zafar, Cal High grad Dr. Dinesh Govindarao vying with incumbent for city’s top spot in Tuesday’s election

Two candidates are challenging incumbent Dave Hudson in Tuesday’s election for the privilege to serve as San Ramon mayor.

Dinesh B. Govindarao and Sabina Zafar are looking to unseat Hudson, who has been part of San Ramon’s city council for the past 25 years. Hudson served as mayor in 2001 before it became an elected position and was elected mayor in 2020.

With candidates having their own vision of San Ramon, voters must choose between the three candidates who want to call themselves mayor. These are the candidates, their backgrounds and what they hope to accomplish.

Sabina Zafar

Vice mayor Sabina Zafar is one of two candidates running against incumbent Dave Hudson for mayor. (Photo courtesy of

With experience serving as councilwoman and vice-mayor for San Ramon, Zafar aims to use her accomplishments during her tenure to convince voters that she is the best choice for mayor.

Zafar holds a Bachelors of Science in Computer Information Sciences from the University of South Alabama. After starting off coding, Zafar quickly climbed the corporate ladder and became an executive at Oracle. 

Since then, Zafar has aimed to bring a corporate culture mindset to San Ramon’s government through her role as a councilwoman after taking office on Dec. 11, 2018. 

“Nobody [else] comes from that corporate culture,” Zafar said. “Look, let’s set goals. Let’s get things done.”

One such goal is to create city-wide Wi-Fi. 

“A citywide Wi-Fi is a big initiative of mine that I’ve been very passionate about,” Zafar said. “Just like you need water and you need roads, I think Wi-Fi is the infrastructure, the core infrastructure that any city needs now.”

Since many San Ramon residents are working professionals who are highly educated and skilled in what they do, Zafar believes that creating a city-provided Wi-Fi  for workers and especially parents would allow them to easily work from a park instead of sitting home. 

In terms of economic development, Zafar said she wants to shape San Ramon in a way that would encourage startups to thrive. 

As a mentor at Bishop Ranch Intelligence Innovation Accelerator, Zafar believes that creating mini-hubs for work rather than big campuses would not only help create economic development but also shorter commutes. She said this is a great opportunity to keep offices local. 

Zafar said San Ramon’s revenue is not keeping pace with its rapid population growth. Because of this, she believes it is crucial for the city to encourage residents to shop locally, rather than driving to different cities.  

“Our residents go and spend money in Pleasanton and Dublin because they can find something here,” Zafar said. 

Zafar believes this problem can be solved by reimagining San Ramon architecture, particularly downtown, in a way that would not only encourage people to walk or bike more in a way that would be attractive for businesses to set up shop and promote business.

“Ever since I got elected or started running, my passion has been, how do we set the tone to change these strip malls, which are 40 years old now?” Zafar said. “Pockets of these strip malls can be reimagined.”

Housing is also an issue Zafar aims to address. She believes it is the city’s biggest and most complicated issue.

“We haven’t built a space which allows young workers to live in San Ramon, which allows retirees [to be able to] scale down and live in housing, which is more walkable, bikeable [and] downtown centric,” Zafar said. 

Zafar is a proponent of Additional Housing Units and aims to incorporate smaller housing through apartments in a downtown setting rather than build expansively, which would compromise the natural beauty of the hills. 

“The only thing we can offer now is something that we don’t have in San Ramon, which is apartments, downtown housing, more focused towards young adults and even seniors who want to live in a denser community,” Zafar said. 

Another priority of Zafar’s is better communication with residents. During her time serving as a councilwoman, Zafar said she has witnessed the substantial increase in followers and users on Facebook, Instagram, NextDoor, and YouTube. 

“If you look between 2018 and now, [the city] probably had five council meetings on YouTube,” Zafar said. “Now every meeting is recorded and available on YouTube.”

As the first ever Asian woman to be elected to council, Zafar has also come to value the importance of diversity and inclusivity, and how it can pertain to local government. 

“One, we are diverse by design now. And the second thing is how do we make sure that there is representation of that diversity on our committees,” Zafar said. “Diversity is representing the cross section of our community and having that voice at the table.” 

Zafar hopes to bring this diverse set of views through her potential role as mayor, in addition to her ideas for how she can better improve San Ramon. 

“Dave, he’s been there so long that I feel he doesn’t have a pulse of what San Ramon is today,” Zafar said. “I never saw Dave kind of stepping out and being available to the entire community.” 

Dinesh Govindarao (Dr. Dinesh)

Cal alumnus and chief medical officer for the state compensation insurance fund Dinesh Govindarao is running for mayor. (Photo courtesy of

Govindarao, popularly known as Dr. Dinesh, is a Cal High alumnus who graduated in 1988. After majoring in genetics with a minor in business at UC Berkeley, Govindarao earned his medical degree at Drexel University and a masters in public health from UCLA. 

He started his professional career as a medical consultant, later becoming a medical director at Boeing. Thirteen years later, Govindarao is now the chief medical officer for the state compensation insurance fund.

“I’ve had both the private and the public sector experience,” Govindarao said. “There’s a lot of transferable skills that will help me in the role as a mayor.” 

As a resident of San Ramon for more than 40 years, Govindarao aims to unite San Ramon as one. He first ran for mayor in 2020.

“We’re almost a tale of two cities,” Govindarao said. “I think it’s important for us to look and see how we can bring our communities closer together.”

Govindarao said this unity would be accomplished through cultivating an inclusive and welcoming community. Ideas including but not limited to a city-wide parade and an International Food Festival, which would be held at different locations as opposed to one, would encourage residents to explore various parts of San Ramon.

For the local economy, Govindarao aims to further recruit businesses to San 

Ramon, which in turn would boost the city’s sales tax base. In order to further aid local businesses, Govindarao wants to encourage local consumers to eat and shop locally in San Ramon.

“Right now we are losing retail in this city,” Govindarao said. “So I want to try to bring more retail back in [to] the city.”

With a lot of large companies expecting workers to return to the 0ffice following COVID quarantines, Govindarao believes setting up satellite offices in San Ramon might be a necessary measure to help the city’s workforce. Govindarao also wants to make sure that essential workers such as teachers, firefighters and police officers are supported as well. 

In terms of housing, Govindarao believes that in addition to planning smaller units that would be affordable for low-income individuals and families, infrastructure and other services need to be provided as well.

“I think it’s important to work with our developers to try to make sure that we have some type of master planned type of approach to make sure that we have not just housing, but we have services to support that,” Govindarao said.

When it comes to housing, Govindarao wants to preserve San Ramon’s hills and any open space by not changing any urban boundary lines or zoning. All of this feeds into Govindarao’s idea of “live, work and play in the city”. 

“I want [San Ramon] to be the most vibrant, welcoming, inclusive, and safest city in California,”Govindarao said, “I want us to be that model city where everyone’s like, that’s where I want to live.”

To accomplish this vision, Govindarao said the city has to have its finances in check and make sure there’s enough to maintain amenities while actively seeking opportunities that will generate more money for the city.

“There’s opportunities for us to be better,” Govindarao said. “Let’s not get complacent and let’s look and see what are those opportunities to get better.”

To combat complacency, Govindarao has personally knocked on many resident’s house doors to gain more of an understanding as to what residents want from their new mayor. 

If elected, Govindarao said he would continue to aim to regularly meet with residents in different neighborhoods of the city. 

“When I’ve knocked on thousands and thousands [of] doors, I’ll tell you one of the things that’s disheartening is that people will ask me, who is our current mayor?” Govindarao said. 

Finally, Govindarao aims to help the youth of San Ramon, whether it be through celebrating high school seniors or helping with mental health issues that the youth might face. As someone who went to high school in San Ramon and has kids who went to school locally, Govindarao understands the role youth plays. 

“I look at our youth as our future,” Govindarao said. “If someone’s suffering from some mental health issue, I think taking away that stigma I think is very important.”  

With little political experience compared to his opponents, Govindarao hopes to bring a fresh new perspective that has been influenced by his deep rooted history in San Ramon in addition to his relatable character. 

“I think I represent the present and I represent the future,” Govindarao said. “I don’t think any other candidate can say that.” 

Dave E. Hudson

San Ramon’s incumbent mayor Dave Hudson is seeking re-election. (Photo courtesy of

As the current mayor of San Ramon, Hudson has the most political experience of the three candidates.

In addition to his experience as mayor and on the city council, Hudson has served as San Ramon Liaison for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Dublin San Ramon Services District and the East Bay Municipal Utility District, and the Central Contra Costa Sanitary District. Hudson also has served as chair for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in 2018.

Calls and emails to Hudson seeking comments for this story were not returned.