May 3, 2009

Former San Leandro Mayor Jack Maltester Dies

Former San Leandro Mayor Jack Maltester died Friday, May 1, 2009, at the home in San Leandro where he was born in 1913. Maltester was 95 years old.

Jack Maltester was first appointed to the San Leandro City Council in 1948 to replace Helen Lawrence, who served as his mentor. He served for just a few months and lost when he campaigned for City Council in the April 1948 election. He was subsequently elected to the City Council in 1956 and became Mayor in 1958. In 1962, Maltester became the first Mayor elected directly by the residents of San Leandro instead of the City Council. Maltester was re-elected in 1966, 1970, and 1974, but was forced to leave office after term limits were enacted and he had served as Mayor for 20 years.

On May 6, 1967, Maltester testified at a hearing of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which was investigating housing discrimination.

While he was Mayor, Maltester served as President of the US Conference of Mayors from 1969 to 1970 and introduced a resolution at the 1971 annual conference calling for the US to withdraw from Vietnam. In the resolution, of which he was quite proud, he stated, "I might ask you: Have we left anything up until now to the military experts or have we been running a political war in Vietnam? My city, a small city in California with less than 70,000 people, proposed this resolution and it is supported by the citizens of the community. It is not a resolution of condemnation. It is not offered in rancor. It is a positive statement of principle. To support this position, I believe, is an obligation none of us can ignore in the name of humanity. I ask your vote for an end to this war."

In 1973, Maltester ran for the California State Assembly against San Leandro School Board member Bill Lockyer after Robert Crown was killed while jogging in Alameda. Lockyer, who served as one of Crowns' aides and was helped by Willie Brown in his campaign, prevailed over Maltester.

Maltester remained active in San Leandro affairs, founding The Sentinels, a group of local businessman that provide campaign contributions to local candidates and ballot measures. He also served as President of the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce and President of the California League of Cities.

San Leandro residents who knew him remarked that Maltester always worked to bring resources and development to San Leandro and described his passing as a great loss to the City and community.

Former San Leandro City Manager John Jermanis said that "all of us that had opportunity to meet and know him benefited greatly." Jermanis also described Maltester as a "great political leader" who had a "major influence on development of the City," especially the Marina.

Former Councilman Kent Myers, who has known Maltester for 30 years, noted that Maltester's "mind was still active to the very end. The City is going to miss him."

San Leandro resident Brian Copeland, who has had a successful solo performance and book based on his experience growing up in what was an essentially segregated San Leandro said of meeting Maltester at his most recent birthday, "Although he was in a wheelchair and past 90, he was as sharp as a tack and regaled us with stories about how he loved (and knew) JFK yet hated Bobby Kennedy. We talked some about the research I had done. I found him to be gracious, charming and funny."

Copeland continued, "I got word a few weeks back that his daughter had called Jake at Vila Cereja and said that Jack was happy and excited to have met me and wanted to have me to his home for lunch and to talk more about the era I've written about. We were supposed to pick a date soon. Sorry I won't get the chance.

"The one thing you can say about Mayor Maltester, whether you agreed with policies enacted and maintained during his 20 year tenure or not, is that he truly loved this city and gave it his all. I am truly sorry to hear of his passing and my sincere condolences go out to his family."

San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos learned of Maltester's on Friday afternoon and stated that Maltester "was obviously San Leandro's icon. He and his colleagues on the City Council in the 1970s set the industrial base for San Leandro and was instrumental in developing the Marina."

Maltester continued to be involved in politics until the end as Santos confirmed that Maltester endorsed him for Mayor in 2010. Maltester had endorsed Orval "OB" Badger for Mayor in 2006 and previously endorsed Santos for City Council when Santos was unopposed.

City flags will be flown at half-staff until services are held for Maltester.

Posted by Mike Katz-Lacabe at May 3, 2009 12:23 PM | TrackBack

How could Maltester have "endorsed" Santos, without knowing who is running against him for mayor? Based on Maltester's past endorsement of Tony's opponent, sounds like this is a lie Tony made up, that, because of Maltester's passing, cannot be substantiated.

Posted by: Frank at May 4, 2009 7:34 AM

It's not that uncommon for people or groups to endorse candidates before knowing who the other candidates are. The information about the endorsement is correct and came from multiple sources.

Posted by: Mike Katz-Lacabe at May 4, 2009 7:59 AM

Next year's elections are going to be interesting.

Posted by: Paul Vargas at May 12, 2009 8:00 PM

So did anyone other than I attend the memorial at City Hall?

Posted by: Paul Vargas at May 17, 2009 9:21 AM
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