Parks Board Picks Nancy Skinner To Fill Vacancy Caused by Death, By: Richard Brenneman

Friday March 17, 2006

By unanimous vote, environmentalist and former Berkeley City Councilmember Nancy Skinner was named Monday to fill a vacant seat on the board of the East Bay Regional Parks District. 

In a 6-0 vote, board members elected Skinner to fill the term vacated by the death of Jean Siri, who represented Ward 1. 

Siri, a San Pablo resident and a long-time environmental activist, died Jan. 20 at the age of 85 in the final year of a four-year term. 

Skinner will fill out the remainder of her term, and is expected to run for the post in the November election. AT 51, she will be one of the board’s younger members. 

“I hope to be a good ambassador for the parks, promoting the parks throughout the district, and not just Ward 1,” Skinner said Wednesday. 

As one of six finalists from an initial field of 13 applicants, Skinner and the other five were interviewed for the post by a committee of three board members: Ted Radke, Beverly Lane and Carol Severin, who also serves as board president. 

Other finalists included former Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, Richmond environmental activist Whitney Dotson, Sierra Club attorney/activist Norman La Force, Oakland Deputy City Attorney Richard Illgen and former Berkeley school board member Car roll Williams, who had served as Ward 1 representative before he was defeated by Siri in 1992. 

The board administers more than 95,000 acres of parkland, including 65 regional parks and recreation, wilderness, shoreline, preserve and land bank areas in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. 

Their 2005-2006 fiscal budget totals $159 million. Park staff includes 596 full-time and up to 80 seasonal and temporary employees. 

Skinner said she hopes to increase awareness of the parks and their role in parts of the district where voters have been reluctant to vote new funds. 

“It’s important because to fulfill the mission of the parks and to provide the necessary services and amenities, the district needs more operating funds,” she said. 

If she has a special interest, Skinner said “it’s shepherding the East Shore Park. It’s very near and dear to me, and to everyone in Ward 1.” 

Skinner was the youngest person ever elected to the Berkeley City Council when she ran in 1984 while a student at UC Berkeley. She served on the council through 1994. 

In that race she had the strong backing of then-Assemblyman and now Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. She also served as coordinator of the successful 2002 run of Bates’ spouse, Loni Hancock, to replace him in the Assembly after he was forced out by term limits. 

Dean said that she heard “from at least 25 people” that Skinner “is being groomed to run for Loni’s seat in November 2008 when Loni is termed out” of the Assembly. 

An internationally known environmentalist, Skinner is one of the founders of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and the U.S. director of the Climate Group, a non-profit organization rallying governmental and corporate support on climate change issues. 

Prior to joining the Climate Group after its formation in 2004, she served nearly 10 years with Cities for Climate Protection, an alliance that included Berkeley, San Francisco, Seattle and other municipalities..