Originally posted at www.foxandhoundsdaily.com
Gayle Uilkema, a woman who served as a Contra Costa Supervisor in District 2 for 16 years, passed away this past weekend from ovarian cancer. She was only 73.
Gayle’s record of public service is well known – her 16 years as a Supervisor was preceded by 19 years on the Lafayette City Council. She was a mentor to women young and old and an advisor to many who took the chance to run for municipal, county and state positions. Words and advice from Gayle were memorable and meaningful – she had a way of turning a phrase in a pro-woman manner which was empowering. This poise was reminiscent of the reason she decided to run in the first place in 1978. There was a lack of recreation classes for her two young daughters. She was told by city officials that they didn’t need programs because everyone in Lafayette had a big back yard.
This was unacceptable and Gayle led the fight for recreation programs stating “Wait a minute, kids need that socialization and parents need it too.” She felt that even though many parents worked, there should still be activities for people who remain in the community during the day. She was appointed to the recreation commission and subsequently ran for council in 1978.
During her tenure, she worked on park protection, a community center project, transportation expansion, public safety and development planning serving four times as Lafayette’s Mayor. Tackling pro-parent, pro-child, pro-woman issues will mark Gayle’s legacy. She thought about how decisions would affect the community long term and that was the basis of her decisions.
I last saw Supervisor Uilkema at the dais presiding over the Board of Supervisors this past December 2011. The Board recognized Pancreatic Cancer Action Month and allowed me to make a presentation as the Bay Area Advocacy Coordinator for the East San Francisco Bay for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. The entire Board of Supervisors was extremely gracious in their comments but the most gracious was the lady with the gavel – Supervisor Uilkema.
She asked if there was anything the Board could do to help in our efforts. I indicated that all the Bay Area Members of Congress had signed onto legislation before Congress and the U.S. Senate except Congressman George Miller. Gayle said “well, I’d like to make this part of the Supervisors legislative agenda and ask George for his help.” The Supervisors agreed and subsequently, Congressman Miller became a co-sponsor. You can review the proposed legislation and the facts here.
This past November, when she announced her retirement at the end of her term in January 2013, business leaders and residents hoped that she would be able to serve out the rest of her term. Within months of her announcement, she shared her disappointment in missing Supervisors sessions and meetings where ideas develop. She was named Lafayette Citizen of the Year this past March. This past Friday, the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association honored her for her service. I worked with our Board to assemble the proclamation. You can see it here. Sadly, our lovely Supervisor died the next day.
Gayle Uilkema was a fine lady who was an innovator among women. She loved her community and enjoyed her job as a public servant. It is those she served who will miss her steady hand and leadership the most. Rest in peace, fine woman.
Judy Lloyd is the President of Altamont Strategies