Community members and officials said goodbye Tuesday night to two outgoing City Council members and the city auditor — all of whom are stepping down this week after a combined 72 years of public service.
Thanks and well wishes lasted approximately two hours Tuesday night, which was the last regular council meeting for District 1 rep Linda Maio, District 7 rep Kriss Worthington and city auditor Ann-Marie Hogan. Maio took office in 1992, Hogan in 1994 and Worthington in 1996.
Speakers said repeatedly that the institutional memory loss for the city will be immense, and that the outgoing trio’s shoes will be tough to fill. All three decided not to seek re-election this year and will be replaced by newly elected officials Rashi Kesarwani in District 1, Rigel Robinson in District 7 and Jenny Wong in the auditor’s office.
State Sen. Nancy Skinner presented Worthington and Maio with proclamations Tuesday night, and hugged Hogan, wishing her well. Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson was also in attendance to say goodbye, as were former state Sen. Loni Hancock and former Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, her husband.
Many credited Maio for her role as a bridge builder, and Worthington for his extensive mentorship of young interns. And speakers said Hogan was well-known throughout the state for taking auditing to a new level.
After lengthy comments from the public, council members each offered their own words of gratitude and farewell.
Mayor Jesse Arreguín said Maio had been a mentor to him, and a “fellow housing advocate” who had fought “to keep Berkeley a diverse and inclusive place.” He said she had been “a real rock to our council,” and had brought the body together despite perspectives that at times differed: “I could not have done the job of mayor without you,” he told her.
Arreguín got an early start in Berkeley politics as an intern in Worthington’s office, and said the goodbye to Worthington came with “enormous sadness.” He and many others thanked the politician for having made it a priority to elevate young, diverse voices.
“I’m certainly a product of Council Member Worthington’s mentorship and his friendship,” the mayor said, adding that Worthington “gave me a voice and gave me a seat at the table.… I certainly would not be who I am without Kriss.”
Both Worthington and Maio will serve as senior advisors to the mayor after they step down from City Council, speakers said Tuesday night.
Councilwoman Lori Droste, too, recognized Worthington for his efforts to mentor future generations.
“I can’t tell you how many people I meet — not just in Berkeley, but all across California — who have interned with you or have mentored with you. And I really think that’s a tremendous gift to our city,” Droste told Worthington. She credited him with continuing to stay open to new ideas, and being willing at times to change his perspective over his many years on council.
Droste choked up as she went on to thank Maio for being “the first person who believed in me.”
“You’ve always been a bridge builder, and your benevolence shines through, and I think everyone has spoken to that this evening,” Droste told Maio. “You’re just a kind soul. We’re just really better for knowing you.”
Councilwoman Susan Wengraf noted that she had begun working at City Hall — initially as the aide to Councilwoman Betty Olds — the same year as Maio. Wengraf recalled the days when there had been more friction among personalities on the dais. She thanked Maio for teaching her “how to legislate with both heart and head,” and Worthington for his work helping put together the city’s annual Holocaust remembrance event.
“We have all grown old together. And we had walls in the beginning. And we have been able, with both of you, to disassemble those walls,” Wengraf said. “All three of you are leaving huge shoes to fill. They’ll be filled slowly, but it will be a major adjustment.”
When it was her turn to speak, Maio thanked her family, her mentors and her supporters. She recognized Hogan for her “constructive and helpful” approach to making the city work better, and said it was clear how much Hogan’s staff had valued her leadership. She credited Worthington with having brought a keen mind and “reservoir of information” to his work on the City Council, and said she appreciated his contributions even if they sometimes had been at odds.
“We haven’t always agreed,” Maio told him. But she said they had, however, “agreed more in the last couple years.”
“I’ve enjoyed that part,” she told him.
“I agree,” Worthington quipped back.
In his remarks, Worthington described having come to Berkeley as a homeless teenager who had been hitchhiking across the U.S. after escaping an abusive situation in a foster home.
“Before I moved to Berkeley, I don’t think I felt like I had ever been loved in my life,” he said. In Berkeley, Worthington met his longtime partner, Marty Spence, who he described Tuesday night as “the most important person in my world.”
Worthington said he would most likely be remembered for his efforts as a mentor, rather than for any particular policy he had promoted. He had warm words for Arreguín, and said his friend had “already eclipsed my political career by becoming mayor,” and would go on to even more amazing achievements in the future.
Worthington had extensive praise, too, for City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley, saying she had made Berkeley run more efficiently and empowered her department heads to get critical work done. He said Williams-Ridley’s main focus, however, had been to learn the priorities of the council majority and find ways to accomplish those goals. The approach was refreshing and hadn’t always been the case with prior city managers, he said, “without naming any names.”
Worthington thanked Hogan for a “stunning, beautiful audit report” she’d completed that finally convinced council to increase the city’s reserve funds. Worthington had tried for years to accomplish that goal himself, he said, but it was Hogan’s audit that ultimately did the trick.
And he told his colleagues on the dais that incoming District 7 Councilman Rigel Robinson will “knock your socks off,” adding, “He’s the first person in the history of district elections to get endorsed by every single person sitting at this table. What an incredible accomplishment.”
Many speakers thanked the outgoing council members for their responsiveness over the years and their approach to constituent services. They recognized Maio for her efforts to get the sugar-sweetened beverage tax passed, and Worthington for his work to launch the city’s zero-waste program.
“It’s hard to imagine council without you. It’s going to be very different,” Martin Bourque, executive director of the Ecology Center, told the officials during public comment. He recognized, too, that an elected official’s job can sometimes be a thankless one. “I’ll miss you all on council: knowing that you had all of us and our city at the center of your thoughts when you were deliberating.”
The new City Council members will be sworn in Saturday during a private ceremony. Their first meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 1231 Addison St. (at Browning Street).