Dublin Vice Mayor Don Biddle, who was serving in his 10th year on the Dublin City Council, died late Wednesday night after battling a brief illness. He was 80.
A career engineer who spent decades giving back to the Dublin community through public service and nonprofit leadership, Biddle also previously sat on the Dublin Planning Commission for four years and before that served more than 12 years on local school boards.
"We are grieving the loss of our friend and colleague," Dublin Mayor David Haubert said in a statement Thursday morning.
"Don is in a class by himself," Haubert added. "He was an incredibly kind and giving person and served this community with distinction and integrity, not only as a member of the City Council but in so many ways that it is difficult to enumerate. My hope is that we will all honor Don by sharing positive stories and memories that shape his legacy."
Biddle had just begun serving his final year on the City Council due to term limits. Despite being set to be termed out this fall, Biddle in the past couple months found himself the target of a recall effort -- along with Councilman Abe Gupta and school board member Dan Cunningham -- from residents concerned about the impacts of continued development growth in Dublin.
Biddle listed among his proudest city accomplishments the creation of new Dublin public parks including Fallon Sports Park and The Wave, supporting the new Valor Crossing affordable apartment complex for military members and veterans, helping Dublin pass a school facilities bond and serving on the Dublin Partners in Education, according to city officials.
"We have lost a great leader and a dear friend," Dublin Councilwoman Melissa Hernandez said in a statement. "Don was the epitome of a dedicated public servant. He was a part of our family, a fixture around City Hall and he had a profound and positive impact on our daily lives. We will miss him beyond words."
"It's a terrible loss for our community ... He was a true public servant, in every sense of the term," former Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti said of Biddle.
Sbranti, who was at the hospital where Biddle died overnight, said his close friend and former council colleague had the kind of far-reaching and longstanding impact on Dublin that few, if any, have ever had in the city's history. But he will also be remembered for his "gentle nature, infectious smile, his approach and his demeanor; he was a unifier," Sbranti told the Weekly.
"He'll be missed, but his legacy will certainly live on," Sbranti said. "Anybody who knew him is a better person for having known him."
A Dublin resident since 1974 and a military veteran, Biddle joined the Dublin City Council in December 2008, appointed to fill the council seat left vacant when voters elevated Sbranti to mayor. Biddle was re-elected to full four-year terms in 2010 and 2014.
While serving on the council, Biddle represented Dublin on a variety of regional agencies including the Housing Commission of Alameda County, Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority, Alameda County Transportation Commission, Tri-Valley Transportation Commission and East Bay Community Energy Board.
Among his council highlights was supporting the development of new Dublin city parks, including the most-recent Jordan Ranch Park, Passatempo Park and Positano Park, the Dublin Heritage Park and Museums, Fallon Sports Park and The Wave, city officials said.
He was also proud of the redevelopment of the former Arroyo Vista site -- a federal housing project -- into Emerald Vista, the region's first mixed-income housing development, which won several national honors and awards, officials added.
Prior to his council tenure, Biddle served four years on the Dublin Planning Commission and almost 13 years on school boards for Dublin -- on the Murray School Board from 1977-85, Amador High School District Board from 1985-87 and Dublin Unified School District Board from 1987-90.
As a schools leader, Biddle was co-chair of the committee that helped pass the 2004 Dublin school bond measure that supported key facilities projects including the Dublin High School renovations, and he also co-chaired the committee that helped pass a Dublin school parcel tax measure in 2008.
"Don was a pillar in Dublin, supporting the community and always taking the time to mentor up-and-coming leaders," said Amy Miller, current Dublin school board president. "He cared deeply for those he served and was the epitome of a true selfless public servant. Our thoughts are with Don's family at this devastating time, and we will honor Don by never forgetting all he did for our great city."
Biddle also helped local nonprofits establish a strong presence in Dublin, including the School of Imagination, Tri-Valley YMCA and Hope Hospice, according to city officials. He was past president of Dublin Partners in Education and was active with the Dublin Historical Preservation Society, Dublin Rotary Club, Dublin Sister City Association and American Cancer Society's Tri-Valley chapter.
An engineer by trade, Biddle earned a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Purdue University before spending 31 years with Bechtel Corporation and General Contractors as a field engineer, cost and schedule engineer, project manager, and project controls manager.
Biddle is survived by his wife Donnamarie, daughters Patricia and Sandee and his grandchildren. He was preceded in death by son Bruce.
Information on funeral services are pending, according to city staff. The flag at the Dublin Civic Center will be flown at half-staff until his interment.
The Dublin City Council is expected to discuss how to address the vacancy created by Biddle's death at a yet-unscheduled future meeting, according to assistant city manager Linda Smith.
Smith also said that anyone who wants to send their condolences can do so by writing to the City Manager's Office, which will collect the notes and provide them to the Biddle family. Mail or drop off those notes at 100 Civic Plaza, Dublin, CA 94568.
Civic leaders from across the Tri-Valley lauded Biddle's service to the Dublin community throughout the day Thursday.
"Dublin already misses the warmth and generosity of Don Biddle. He served the people of Dublin in nearly every capacity one could. It was an honor to serve with him during my time on the City Council," U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) told the Weekly.
"Don will be remembered for being a steady, conscientious leader as Dublin transformed from a bedroom community to a place known nationally for having the best jobs, schools, and services," Swalwell added. "Don made every decision through the same prism: 'Is this what's best for Dublin?' And Dublin is better because a caring, selfless man like Don served us."
Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, whose district includes Dublin, said on Twitter, "Deeply saddened by the news of the passing of (Dublin) Vice Mayor Don Biddle. Don was an esteemed leader and friend. He will be dearly missed."
"Very sad news. Don was a committed public servant that I thoroughly enjoyed working with. I am very sorry that I will be out of the country for his funeral. My thoughts and prayers are with his family," Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne told the Weekly.
"Heartbreaking to hear the news of the passing of Dublin Vice Mayor Don Biddle. He was a dedicated, cheerful, and generous public servant, and he will be missed," Assemblywoman Catharine Baker said on Twitter while adding condolences for Biddle's family.
"Don Biddle was deeply committed to his community, and he represented Dublin like the true guardian that he was. He was a great man with a generous heart and we will all miss him dearly," Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho said.
"Don Biddle dedicated much of his life to the city of Dublin. Few have the history of community involvement that can be found on his resume," said DUSD Superintendent Leslie Boozer, Ed.D. "Don served on the Dublin School Board for 12 years and continued to support our school system and children as a Board Member and past President of Dublin Partners in Education and as a member of the School District Bond Oversight Committee."
"His passing is a tragic loss for the Dublin community," Boozer added. "The only comfort we find in this news is the knowledge that his legacy of caring and commitment will live forever in the lives of the countless students that have passed through Dublin schools. The Dublin Unified School District and the people of Dublin are forever in Don's debt."