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Updated: Family Says Berkeley City Clerk Died from "A Terrible Accident"

By Jeff Shuttleworth (BCN)
Monday January 09, 2012 - 11:09:00 PM

Berkeley City Clerk Deanna Despain died early Saturday morning as a result of "a terrible accident" at her home in Oakland, according to a statement issued today by her family and Berkeley City Manager Christine Daniel. 

Despain, 37, was found dead inside her home in the 4100 block of Lyman Street in Oakland just before 2 a.m. Saturday, Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said. 

Oakland police initially said Despain's death was suspicious but Watson said that's no longer the case. 

However, Watson refused to provide further information about Despain's death, saying it's still under investigation. 

Daniel said in a memo to city of Berkeley employees that, "Her family has shared with us that although it is too soon to expect an official report, the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda Coroner's Office have told them that her death was a result of a terrible accident." 

Daniel said, "This was very sudden, and our hearts are with her family as they come to terms with this unexpected tragedy." 

Daniel said, "This is a heartbreaking loss for Deanna's family, as well as all of us at the city. She was an incredible human being and an excellent city clerk who worked incredibly hard, cared deeply about good government, her profession and her staff. 

Daniel added, "Most of all, she loved her friends and her family. To her husband and daughter especially, she is irreplaceable." 

Despain became Berkeley's Acting City Clerk in June 2008, succeeding Pamyla Means, and was officially appointed City Clerk on May 17, 2009. 

Before becoming Acting City Clerk, Despain served the city starting in September 2004 as the records manager, assistant city clerk and deputy city clerk. 

Despain attended the University of Utah and Salt Lake Community College, according to a resolution that the City Council passed when it appointed her City Clerk. 

As clerk, Despain was responsible for preparing agendas for city meetings, overseeing elections, managing records for the city and processing appointments to boards and committees. 

Mayor Tom Bates said, "It's really sad to hear the news because she was such a valuable employee and was truly liked in city politics. She had a pleasing way of getting along with people." 

Bates said Despain "was an excellent clerk and was skilled in untangling and interpreting the complicated resolutions passed by the City Council." 

He said, "The city's staff is in shock and in mourning" after hearing about her death. 

Bates said it's especially sad that Despain's daughter, who is less than a year old, will grow up without her.