A mayor who was so much more
By Rick Stevenson
My neighbor always loved to garden. For this chore she often wore camouflage overalls, handmade by herself. Many of the clothes she wore to work were sewn at home, cut from patterns arranged with fabric on her dining room table. She was special that way, and remarkable in many other ways.
My neighbor was a community-minded woman. She loved to ride Regional Transit buses and eventually light rail trains, a system she helped create. She loved the bike paths that run along our two rivers. She believed people should spend time outdoors and enjoy life together.
She rallied neighbors to look after each other. She was a fixture on our street, reliable, sturdy and beloved, living with her family in the same Land Park house for 63 years.
My neighbor was 97 when she died on Thanksgiving. Her passing was not completely unexpected. But the street is something less today, diminished by loss. We know we will never have another neighbor like Anne Rudin.
When someone lives in the same house for 63 years, her presence transcends history. That’s how I remember my neighbor. She had a timeless quality, a gentle, steady, caring aura that never faltered.
As a kid, I delivered The Bee on my bicycle, careful not to miss my neighbor’s porch. The memory of a boy tossing newspapers from a bike seems ancient today, like the Halloween party the Rudin family arranged for neighborhood children. We dunked for apples—another memory from a distant past.
I enjoyed spending time with my neighbor’s family, her husband Ed, daughters Nancy and fraternal twins Carol and Barbara, and son Jay. We shared a love of citrus trees. When the fruit ripened I would walk across the street and trade citrus with my neighbor.
She was interested in politics, and reminders of her involvement could be seen each time my neighbor opened her garage door. A wall in her garage was covered with old wooden lawn signs from a political campaign she ran in 1971. The signs were unusual because they featured a flower logo. Not many political campaigns feature flowers these days.
People who didn’t know my neighbor might be tempted to use the word “politician” to describe her. I would never use that word. When I think of how politicians operate and consider the forces that motivate them, I know those realities would never apply to my neighbor.
Her actions were never self-serving or promotional. My neighbor cared only about what was best for her city. Nothing else mattered.
My neighbor received a measure of fame and notoriety, but they had no impact on her. I once found a college political science textbook that mentioned her as an example of how times were changing in politics. I gave her a copy. She had no idea she was in the book.
Some years later, my sister, Pinki Cockrell, gave my neighbor aerial photos showing the growth of Sacramento from the 1970s to the early 1990s. The photos revealed massive changes. My neighbor was concerned about growth and didn’t think it was all for the best.
My neighbor was elected mayor in 1983. She served two terms. Prior to that, she spent 12 years as a City Council member. Throughout her career at City Hall, she had no retinue, no hangers-on. She guided the City Council, always as a friend, never as a bully.
She was a wonderful neighbor. For everyone else in Sacramento, she was the leader we could count on, who wanted nothing in return and who put flowers on her campaign signs.
Rick Stevenson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.