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Gayle Uilkema, East Bay supervisor, dies at 73

  • May 22, 2012

By Carolyn Jones
Chronicle Staff Writer

Services are scheduled for Thursday for Contra Costa County Supervisor Gayle Uilkema, a crusader for small businesses, clean air and responsible government who died May 19 of ovarian cancer. She was 73.

Supervisor Uilkema was finishing her fourth term on the board, following 19 years on the Lafayette City Council. She also served on several regional boards.

"Once we had a very contentious meeting on the Lafayette City Council about a tax, and she changed her vote. She said, 'Always trust the people,' " said Don Tatzin, a Lafayette city councilman who worked with Supervisor Uilkema for decades. "She believed her constituents were smart, caring and knew what was best. And she listened to them."

Supervisor Uilkema grew up in Detroit and attended the University of Michigan on a full scholarship. In the early 1960s she moved to the Bay Area, where she taught typing and shorthand at Oakland Technical High School.

In the early 1970s she moved to Lafayette, where she raised her two daughters and became involved in local parks and school committees. In 1977 she was elected to the council, serving four terms as mayor while also earning her master's degree in public administration from California State University East Bay.

In 1996, voters elected her to represent District 2 on the Board of Supervisors, a diverse district that for many years included suburban, wealthier cities like San Ramon and Danville as well as more industrial and urban towns in the western side of the county.

"She always dressed very elegantly and treated everyone the same, no matter if they lived in Blackhawk or a shack in Richmond," said her senior aide, Lauri Byers. "She worked hard for everyone."

Supervisor Uilkema, a Republican, was known for her diligent preparation for meetings and insistence on transparent, thoroughly audited budgets.

She also had a surprising sense of humor, said Julie Enea, deputy county administrator.

When she wasn't working, Supervisor Uilkema enjoyed tennis, spending time with her family and gardening at her home of 40 years in Lafayette. She was also active in the Catholic Church, serving as one of the first female lectors in the Bay Area.

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the summer of 2010 but continued working until about two weeks ago, Byers said.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at St. Perpetua's Catholic Church, 3445 Hamlin Road, Lafayette.

Donations can be sent to the American Cancer Society, 101 Ygnacio Valley Road, Suite 110, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, or Stand for Families Free of Violence, 1410 Danzig Plaza, Suite 100, Concord, CA 94520.


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