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  Penn to Leave City Council
May 30, 2005

Richmond City Council Member Mindell Penn announced yesterday that she will be resigning her seat on the Richmond City Council at the end of June to move to Detroit to be with her elderly mother. Penn, who was first elected in 1999, as top vote-getter, and reelected in November 2004 to a second term, chairs the Rules and Procedures Committee of the City Council and represents Richmond on WCCTAC (West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee).

It has been a real pleasure working with Mindell, who is my only seatmate (since I sit on the end of the podium), and I will miss her greatly and especially her sense of humor. Mindell has a sharp tongue at times but is always able to revert to laugh about things that others often take too seriously. A couple of years ago during debate on an issue that drew highly emotional testimony from the public, she brought a naked rubber chicken to give to me at a Council meeting after I said I would be “caving in” to public opinion on an upcoming vote. We passed that chicken around to other Council members for several months when they made “political” votes, but I think Jim Rogers finally disappeared it.

People may not know that Mindell probably has more continuing education in local government than anyone on the City Council. She regularly attends courses, seminars and conferences on important topics to elected local officials such as planning and code enforcement. That contribution will also be missed. She has been a big supporter of smart growth and attended the Congress for New Urbanism Annual Conference last year as well as the Building Livable, Sustainable Communities 14th Annual Conference for Local Elected Officials in Yosemite this spring.

She filled a critical political niche on the Council. As a former PG&E governmental affairs executive, she was once a member of the Council of Industries and has maintained the respect of that group. At the same time, she has increasingly championed governmental reform and quality of life issues in Richmond, taking the lead in issues such as code enforcement and planning. She recently co-authored an ordinance requiring that the City’s pension and investment funds divest themselves from financial institutions linked to slavery.

Mindell also serves with me on the board of the Rosie the Riveter Trust, the official non-profit partner to the Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historical Park.

The City Council will have two options for filling the empty seat: choosing a replacement by majority vote of the City Council or waiting until the next City Council election in November 2006.