Many with long ties to the Pleasanton community are mourning former mayor and councilmember Robert "Bob" Butler, who died on Oct. 5 at the age of 83.
Serving on the Planning Commission and City Council during crucial times in Pleasanton's evolution of the 1970s and 1980s, Butler was a central figure when decisions were made and projects were approved that continue to have important impacts on the community we know today.
Hacienda Business Park. Ruby Hill. The mall. The Senior Center. Stoneridge Drive freeway interchange. Foothill Road developments. (Just to name a select few.)
"Bob Butler was an exemplary public servant, and the city of Pleasanton is better for his service," City Manager Nelson Fialho said in a statement from the city last week announcing Butler's passing.
"With a 15-year tenure on Pleasanton's City Council, Bob was a champion for Pleasanton and played a major role in shaping our city into the outstanding place it is today," Fialho said. "Through his thoughtful leadership, Bob helped to guide Pleasanton through a period of transformative growth that developed two hallmarks of our city -- Stoneridge Shopping Center and Hacienda."
Current Mayor Karla Brown added these reflections when I reached out to her over the weekend:
"I would like to thank Pleasanton's former Mayor Mr. Bob Butler for his extensive service to our community. Representing Pleasanton as both our mayor and as a councilmember are positions of honor. At our recent City Council meeting, we bowed our heads in silence, extending our deepest condolences for Mr. Butler and his family."
The city lowered its flags at the Civic Center in Butler's honor on Oct. 6.
When the news came out last week, one of the first things I did was go through our archives for past coverage of Butler. I'd never had the opportunity to meet him in person, and I certainly wasn't around town during his council tenure (I was born five years before he left the dais).
Of course, his city service predated the Weekly, too, as we debuted in 2000.
Fortunately, an article our Tri-Valley Life editor Dolores Fox Ciardelli wrote about Butler five years ago was particularly illuminating and reflective, upon him receiving a 2016 Ed Kinney Community Patriot Award -- an annual service recognition program here in town, named for another late former Pleasanton mayor.
Butler served for four years on the Pleasanton Planning Commission before being elevated to the City Council, where he sat from 1978-93. That included a turn as mayor from 1982-83.
"I will never forget my first Planning Commission meeting," Butler said in Dolores' 2016 article. "Foothill Road ridge development was on the agenda, and the meeting lasted from 7:30 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. My wife got so worried ... that she called the police."
What a great anecdote.
Especially to someone like me, who has spent my share of occasions in a council chamber watching as the clock ticks past midnight -- albeit in the age of text messages, to alert my wife.
Butler was a transplant to Pleasanton, initially relocating here from the Midwest in 1960. He and wife MaryAnn (who died in 2009) had four children together. The couple were also charter members of the Pleasanton Community Concert Band when it formed in 1975; he played trombone, saxophone and percussion.
A veteran with two years of active duty in the Army and nearly three decades in the Army Reserve, Butler worked a full career with GE Vallecitos before "retiring" and opening a tax preparation business.
I look forward to reading much more about Butler's personal, professional and public accomplishments after his family publishes a full obituary in the days or weeks ahead.
And perhaps Peter MacDonald, who worked as city attorney for Pleasanton during part of Butler's council tenure, put it best in reflection of the late councilman.
"Bob Butler was probably the smartest councilmember I ever worked with," MacDonald told me via email last weekend. "Bob came across as almost apolitical because he would acknowledge the other points of view, and then calmly explain how he was going to vote. He was respectful to other opinions, and respected for his clear thinking."
RIP Bob Butler.
Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Pleasanton Weekly since February 2017. His "What a Week" column runs on the first and third Fridays of the month.