Remembering Gayle Uilkema

A Patch editor remembers Contra Costa Supervisor Gayle Uilkema as her political career began

I guess you could say I was there at the inception, although I certainly didn't know it at the time.

In 1978, as a young reporter at the Contra Costa Times I was covering the city of Lafayette.

That fall, there was a City Council election. A 40-year-old housewife named Gayle Uilkema was making her first run for public office. She won.

Little did anyone know, that election was the beginning of a 34-year political career for the polite and proper Lafayette citizen.

Gayle Uilkema died on Sunday at the age of 73 after a two-year battle with ovarian cancer.

She will be remembered at 7 p.m. tonight at a rosary service at 3454 Hamlin Road in Lafayette.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the same church.

In 1978, Uilkema was a member of the Lafayette Park and Recreation Commission when she made her initial run for office.

On the council, it became quickly obvious she was an elected official who would be deeply involved and took seriously the decisions she made regarding her community.

Uilkema would stay on the council for 18 years. During that time, she earned a master's degree in public administration.

In 1996, she ran for Contra Costa County supervisor. She won that race and would win re-election three times.

She announced her retirement last fall but didn't say much in public about her battle with cancer.

Gayle Uilkema was the definition of a public servant and a model for community involvement.

She could be adamant on certain issues, but there were times when she also was instrumental in forging compromises.

She was always friendly, accessible and about as upfront and honest as a politician can be these days.

But, most of all, she cared.

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Mark Roberts May 24, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I couldn't agree more with David's comments and observations. I had the honor and privilege of working for Gayle as her Lamorinda (and Canyon) community liaison several years ago. Yes, she was a superb politician but she knew that first and foremost she was a public servant who was elected by her constituents -- a very diverse group -- to represent their best interests. She NEVER lost sight of that responsibility. She listened, she was empathetic, she was fair and she was effective. I hope that her successor as supervisor for District 2 will use Gayle's career and her character as models for what public service should be.


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