Beverly Lane has epitomized effective and meaningful public service in the Tri-Valley for more than 30 years, initially making her mark while sitting on the first Danville Town Council and then solidifying it while spending the past two decades on the regional park district board -- all the while helping to preserve local history through her research and published writings.
"I really consider myself a student of the history here and of the community," Lane said during a November interview at downtown Danville's Museum of the San Ramon Valley, where she serves as curator.
A longtime San Ramon Valley public leader whose own role in the region's history continues to be written, Lane first moved to the area as an adult more than 40 years ago.
Raised in a Marine Corps family in Southern California, Lane said with a smile, "I grew up in Orange County when there were still oranges there and before the interstate came through from Los Angeles to Santa Ana."
She graduated from Occidental College in Los Angeles with a double major in history and English, and later earned a master's degree in public administration from Cal State, Hayward.
Lane and her husband, Jim, relocated to Danville with their three sons in 1973.
Nearly a decade later, Lane's impact on her hometown would become a lasting one when she played an active part in the town's successful incorporation campaign and was elected to the first Danvillle Town Council in 1982.
"To be part of creating a new town in an area that already had quite an impressive history, and to work with four other people who were very public-spirited and make those initial decisions, was quite an extraordinary experience," she recalled.
"What was particularly outstanding was it was 'the first this', 'the first that,'" she added. "So all of those firsts -- and trying to do them using other people's experience of what had worked but also putting innovative ideas into it -- that was just great fun."
Lane served three consecutive terms on the Danville council, including three turns as the town's mayor.
Reflecting on her decision to not seek re-election in 1993, she said, "I felt it was time to have some people who would bring some different perspectives, and I actually was looking forward to being a private person again because in a community of this size, people recognized you and talked to you about their concerns wherever they saw you."
The time out of the public eye would be short-lived.
Lane, an active advocate for open space preservation and public park facilities, said that in the wake of her stepping down from the council, she was recruited to run for a vacant spot on the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) Board of Directors.
After initially declining to seek the seat, Lane said she soon reconsidered because she thought sitting on the board would put her in a better position to accomplish a top goal: extending the Iron Horse Regional Trail beyond the San Ramon Valley.
She was elected to the board in 1994 and hasn't looked back, earning another four-year term this year.
"I enjoy pretty much all aspects of it," she said of the last 20 years with the EBRPD. "There are plenty of challenges that have continued, and lots of opportunities to improve what the park district offered and to make it more accessible to people."
Her highest priorities for the upcoming term include helping EBRPD through a time of administrative staff transition, supporting district volunteer efforts, and continuing work on projects such as the new visitor center at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline and the proposed Concord hills regional park to be located on part of the now-closed Concord Naval Weapons Station.
Meanwhile, Lane is also working on preservation of another kind in her own backyard.
A published author and columnist, Lane has been conducting historical research on the San Ramon Valley for the past three decades.
"I'm interested in how the cities evolved and how the county works and how people decide to do what they do," she said. "The decisions people make are interesting, and I like to listen to them and see how they explain what they want in their own community."
Lane was the founding president of the Museum of the San Ramon Valley and has served as museum curator for roughly 10 years.
She said she recently started working on a new book, tentatively titled "San Ramon Remembered: Essays from Bygone Years in San Ramon" -- mostly a compilation of her own historical writing, along with some original source material.
"It's a work in progress," Lane added about her latest historical preservation project. "But it will be in one place, some of the San Ramon history -- which is really not that easy to find."
* Open space preservation, helping initiate the Heritage Resource Commission and developing policies "to preserve a small-town view of life" were among Lane's proudest Danville council accomplishments.
* She currently represents EBRPD Ward 6, which includes Alamo, Blackhawk, Clayton, Concord, Danville, Diablo, Pleasant Hill, San Ramon, Tassajara, and most of Walnut Creek.
* The park district covers Alameda and Contra Costa counties, includes more than 114,000 acres and manages 65 regional parks.
* The Iron Horse Trail now extends 32 miles from Concord to Pleasanton.
* Lane's books include "Vintage Danville, 150 Years of Memories" and "Before BART: Electric Railroads Link Contra Costa County."
* One of her favorite local historical tidbits is the story of how Elliott's Bar in Danville turned into an ice cream parlor/candy store during Prohibition. Mr. Elliott decided he wouldn't run an illegal business because that would be a bad example for his sons. So, he closed the bar, offered drinks on the house, "and then he and his sons went out and broke all the liquor bottles," Lane said.