It's not that Kathy Narum served the residents of Pleasanton in appointed and elected positions for more than 20 years. It's not the long list of council, local, regional committees and task forces she was involved with over the years. It's not even the impressive number of accomplishments the city made during her tenure.
It's how Kathy performed her duties over those years -- as a servant leader who puts the needs and wellbeing of others before her own.
Over the years, I have watched Kathy interact with fellow councilmembers, residents, city staff and other elected officials, and I saw a leader who approached her role as an opportunity to serve others as opposed to a chance to fulfill a personal agenda. She has integrity and didn't make promises to get her way. She listened more than she spoke.
"It has been an absolute honor to have served as a member of the City Council for the past 9-1/2 years," she said at the Dec. 20 council meeting (her last since she is temporarily termed out). "For me, serving on the council hasn't been a job. It's a desire to do good, to really make a difference in the community."
Kathy and her husband Jeff are longtime residents who raised their two daughters in Pleasanton. Kathy was very involved with the Pleasanton Seahawks Swim Team and Pleasanton RAGE Girls Soccer when the girls were young.
She said it was about 25 years ago, when she was the Seahawks' president, that she met Jerry Thorne, a former Seahawks' president who later was elected to the Pleasanton council and eventually mayor. Little did Kathy know she would "follow in his footsteps, with his encouragement and support."
Like Thorne, Kathy was a member of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission. She served on that commission from 2002 to 2006, and on the Planning Commission from 2007 to 2013. She was elected to the City Council in May 2013 to fill the seat vacated when Thorne was elected mayor; she was elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2018.
Some people believe being a city councilmember involves a couple hours of meetings a month. They haven't seen the several-inches-thick staff reports that have to be studied before the hours-long council meetings and committee assignments.
In addition to being very prepared for every council meeting, each year she was on the council, Kathy served on 14 to 18 committees and task forces spanning finance, transportation, land, water, air and mosquitos. Assuming each entity meets monthly, that is more than 1,700 meetings -- in addition to the regular council meetings and unofficial meetings with residents over 9-1/2 years.
"It became clear to me what 'community' really means," Kathy said, adding it is important for the council to recognize and meet "the needs of various segments that make us better as a whole."
Using Cubby's Dog Park as an example, she said, "We realized that four out of five of us didn't own a dog. Didn't want a dog. But it was important and it was the right thing to do for the community to put in the second dog park."
Kathy also helped make space for two-legged residents to play soccer, cricket and pickleball, and to swim.
But it wasn't all hard work. Kathy had amazing experiences most people won't have the chance to. She did a 12-hour-long ride with a Pleasanton police officer (that lasted until 4 a.m.), and climbed a very tall ladder in very heavy full firefighter gear.
"I helped put out a fire in the (Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department) training tower," she said, "and it's a good thing that's not part of our duties because I think I would have been a fail."
The future for Narum does not hold a job as a firefighter. As far as I know.
What is in her future, though, is time with her family, which now includes her 1-year-old grandson, Reed. She will also serve on the board of directors for Sunflower Hill, a nonprofit that offers housing and programs for adults with disabilities.
Susan Hayes, a nonprofit consultant and former city Human Services Commission member, said Kathy knows "where all the pipes are buried; where the mosquitoes hang out; the delicate dance of meeting housing needs; coping mechanisms for when the song 'It Never Rains in California' becomes a reality; and how to effectively navigate through the bottleneck of regional transportation discussions."
Kathy, you set a high bar and a great example. On behalf of residents present and future, thank you.
Editor's note: Gina Channell Wilcox has been the president and publisher of Embarcadero Media Group's East Bay Division since 2006.
on Dec 30, 2022 at 12:33 pm
on Dec 30, 2022 at 12:33 pm
Gina, thank you for this story about Kathy's dedication to Pleasanton. She is truly a gift to Pleasanton. I hope she follows in Thorne's footsteps and becomes the Mayor someday (if it works for her). Thank you, Kathy!