By Jeb Bing
Pleasanton's own 'Wikipedia' says goodbyeUploaded: Dec 25, 2009
While many of us are celebrating the holidays with family and friends, Dean and Mary Lu Campbell will spend the week busily packing up their Pleasanton house for their move to Chico.
Mary Lu Campbell has been City Hall's executive assistant for the last 16 years, coming here with such an extensive background in legislative affairs and constituent relations that she's often regarded as Pleasanton's own local "Wikipedia." She's retiring next Wednesday and with Dean, who retired Dec. 18, will move to Chico.
They moved here in 1986 with their 6-year-old daughter Kelly after Dean was promoted to West Coast sales manager by American Red Ball, a moving company. She worked for Pulte Homes and a real estate company before accepting the city position in October 1993, working first for City Manager Deborah McKeehan and then for McKeehan's successor, City Manager Nelson Fialho. In that period, she has handled administrative affairs for three mayors -- Ben Tarver, Tom Pico and for the last five years, Jennifer Hosterman -- and 11 councilmembers.
She got her start in government affairs as a junior at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., near her family home, joining a busload of students in 1971 to seek signatures to put the name of Indiana Sen. Vance Hartke on the Democratic presidential ballot in New Hampshire. Although the effort was unsuccessful, Hartke later hired Campbell to be a caseworker in his Washington, D.C. office. She handled constituent calls asking about missing or late Social Security checks, emergency passport and visa applications and hundreds of other queries from Indiana voters.
Campbell moved up the ranks in the senator's office to taking charge of special projects, where she researched and prepared reports on major events of interest to Hartke, even attending the Watergate hearings several hours each day. But it was not to last. Hartke suffered a stunning defeat in his bid for a fourth term in the Senate, losing to Richard Lugar, who is still Indiana's Republican senator. Always loyal to Hartke, she took Kelly back to Washington for Hartke's funeral in July 2003 and his burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
After Hartke's defeat, Campbell worked briefly in the House of Representatives, returning to the Senate to work for newly-elected Arizona Democrat Dennis DeConcini after he was elected in 1977. There, Campbell again handled constituent relations, and then became a legislative assistant assigned to track specific issues and draft policy statements. When Dean left his job with the National Food Processors Association, a trade group to take an executive position with American Red Ball in Indianapolis, the two moved back to their home state, where Kelly was born in 1980.
Those of us who frequent the offices at City Hall or who call there quickly get to know Mary Lu Campbell. She's become the information guru, parlaying her years of work in handling constituent relations at the federal level to doing much the same at the local level. She fields scores of calls every day for the city manager, his two assistants, the mayor and councilmembers who rely on her to sort through requests and directly resolve those that she can.
She'll be missed by the thousands she's helped over the years and she says she'll miss Pleasanton, too. It'll be a new experience living in a less-cosmopolitan town, although they came to like Chico when Kelly was a student at Chico State and they decided to buy a home there. Kelly, who's since graduated, still lives in Chico, where she works for the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit organization.
Mary Lu wrote this about leaving Pleasanton:
"I'd just like to say that I've had the privilege to work for the two best city managers in the state of California as well as mayors and councilmembers who may differ in their approaches, but who each hold a deep commitment to our town.
"Life in Pleasanton will be difficult to replace ... it is a rare place. I have come to know and respect many members of this community and their friendships and respect are things I truly treasure. I will also treasure seeing Nelson (Fialho) disco dance with a rainbow wig on his head, Mayor Tarver doing the Macarena at a Mayor's dinner with foam Swiss cheese on his head, Michael Roush's Bay to Breakers outfits, Deborah McKeehan's joy when her daughter Jessica was born and so many other special memories."