"North star," "trailblazer," and "one of our strongest leaders" are some of the terms Bay Area elected officials used to describe Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, who died after being struck by a car in Alameda.
Police responded just after 8 a.m. Nov. 3 to Shoreline Drive and Grand Street after someone reported the collision. Chan had been walking her dog Maggie when the collision occurred.
Chan, who had also served in the State Assembly earlier in her political career, suffered a head injury and was taken to Highland Hospital where she died at 2:30 p.m., her office said in a statement. She was 72.
"This is such a devastating loss," State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland), said in a statement.
"Wilma Chan was an absolute trailblazer and a decades-long champion for those in need," Skinner said. "She was not only the first Asian American elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, but she was also the first woman and the first Asian American to serve as State Assembly Majority Leader."
"She was passionate about expanding health care and protecting Californians, especially families of color, from environmental toxins," Skinner said. "She was also instrumental in saving San Leandro Hospital, an essential East Bay institution, from closure."
Fellow Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, whose district includes Pleasanton, shared thoughts about his late colleague in his weekly e-newsletter.
"Over the past four decades Wilma and I were at times close collaborators in the unincorporated areas of Alameda County, at times opponents on some County issues, but the deep admiration and respect I held and will always hold for her remained a common thread between us," Miley wrote.
"She was a fierce advocate for those who many times had no voice, an accomplished and beloved elected official, and a tireless visionary in shaping policy in our County and paving the way for many Asian American and Pacific Islander electeds to follow in her footsteps," he continued, adding:
"It is no exaggeration to say we have lost a legend and will grieve this loss for some time to come. May her name always be synonymous with fearless progress and the power of one."
Supervisor David Haubert, who represents Dublin and Livermore in District 1, wrote on Twitter, "I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of my colleague, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan. Her dedication to serving our community and helping others for over 30 years will never be forgotten. I am grateful to have had the opportunity work with her. May she Rest In Peace."
Chan advocated on behalf of children, families, and seniors and advocated for affordable housing and health care for the uninsured, her office said. She represented District 3, which includes Alameda, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Hayward Acres and parts of Oakland.
This was her second tenure on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.
She became the first Asian American person ever elected to the board when she won her seat in 1994, serving until 2000 when voters elevated the Democrat to the State Assembly -- where she sat for three terms until 2006.
Chan decided to pursue her old position on the Board of Supervisors, winning election to the seat in 2010 and retaining it again in 2014 and 2018.
"Supervisor Chan was a north star for so many important issues that served the vulnerable in our community," Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley said in a statement. "She was a champion, for example, of All In Alameda County," which helps to alleviate poverty.
O'Malley said Chan's commitment to her community and to the county will be missed.
Berkeley City Councilman Rigel Robinson said on social media, "Traffic violence took one of our strongest leaders today. May her memory drive us to fight ever harder for a healthier, safer future."
Alameda police said the driver of the vehicle that struck Chan on Nov. 3 stayed at the scene and cooperated with the investigation. No other details were being released by police or the city, including the driver's name with the investigation still ongoing.
Surviving Chan are two children and two grandchildren. They wish to thank the first responders and medical staff who cared for their mother and grandmother, and the family is requesting privacy at this time, according to Chan's office.
Editor's note: Story by Keith Burbank of the Bay City News Service, with Weekly editor Jeremy Walsh contributing.