“We have our own cool vibe happening here.”

Heather Lerner believes in finding the careful equilibrium between leading and following, and also in having fun. Since 2009, she has been executive director of Happy Hollow Foundation, the fundraising branch of Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, which has been delighting San Jose residents with its wild mix of animals and attractions since 1961. But Happy Hollow is only one part of her life. A lifelong resident of San Jose, Lerner has been active in the community for over 20 years and is dedicated to making her city shine. Besides her work at Happy Hollow, Lerner serves on the boards of the Rotary Club of San Jose and City Lights Theater Company, as well as on the SVCreates’ Local Arts Grant panel.

“I love seeing how the younger generation is coming out for things. There is this group of kids, those raised in San Jose, that are fiercely territorial about their hometown. They want to define it, and they are defining it. They aren’t going to let it be the biggest town with the lowest self-esteem anymore. And it’s not that we are the heart of Silicon Valley like everyone says—I don’t agree with that. We have our own cool vibe happening here. The kids of this town are now the adults owning San Jose’s identity, and I couldn’t be more proud of that.”

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This article originally appeared in Issue 8.4 “Profiles”