REGIONAL — Supervisor Wilma Chan, the first Asian American woman elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and first to serve as state Assembly Majority Leader, died Wednesday after a motorist struck her as she walked her dog in the City of Alameda. She was 72.
Chan’s death brought an immediate outpouring of shock and tributes from public officials throughout Northern California and beyond.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “Her decades of service to the community, championing health care, affordable housing and support for families has touched the lives of many. Our thoughts are with her loved ones at this time.”
Chan’s office said she died at 2:30 p.m., hours after emergency crews rushed her to Highland Hospital. A statement said she was “walking her beloved dog Maggie when a vehicle struck her. She suffered a serious head injury.
City of Alameda police said the incident occurred about 8 a.m. at Shoreline Drive and Grand Street. Officers found Chan unresponsive in the road.
The driver, an adult woman, remained at the scene and cooperated with police. How the incident occurred remains under investigation.
Chan spent three decades in Bay Area politics, serving four years on the Oakland Board of Education before becoming the first Asian American elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 1995. She served five years before her election to the California State Assembly. During her six years, she became the first woman and Asian American to be elected Majority Leader.
Chan authored bills that included requiring a no-lead standard in drinking water pipes and fixtures; banned toxic flame retardants; and ended the practice of hospitals overcharging uninsured and underinsured patients. She also won approval of $100 million to expand state preschool.
Chan was re-elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 2011, representing District 3, which includes Alameda, San Leandro, portions of Oakland and other unincorporated areas.
“During her 30-year career in public service, Supervisor Chan had been a staunch advocate for children, families, the elderly, affordable housing, and health care for the uninsured,” her office said in a statement.
As news of her death spread, local politicians, leaders and government bodies issued reactions on Twitter.
“I am saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Supervisor Wilma Chan,” Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern said. “She was a strong supporter of our community policing programs to reduce incarceration, poverty, addiction and homelessness. Her leadership and support of these programs will continue to change lives and are part of her lasting legacy of community service. I send my sincere condolences to her family, friends, supporters and our Alameda County community.”
The East Bay Regional Parks District said, “Alameda County lost a true public servant and champion.”
Supervisor Nate Miley, whose district includes Pleasanton, said, “The tragic passing of Supervisor Wilma Chan has shocked and saddened us all. Out of respect for her family, we are reflecting on this loss and in grief.”
The Alameda County Probation department called Chan “a champion for the eradication of hunger and poverty through the ALL-IN initiative. She worked tirelessly for health care and housing in Alameda County.”
Former Dublin Mayor David Haubert, who was last year elected to represent District 1, including Livermore and Dublin, said Chan’s death deeply saddened him.
“Her dedication to serving our community and helping others for over 30 years will never be forgotten,” Haubert said. “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with her. May she rest in peace.”
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley called Chan a “a north star for so many important issues that served the vulnerable in our community.”
“She was a champion, for example, of ALL-IN Alameda County, which addresses food insecurity and addresses issues of poverty,” O’Malley said. “Her influence and commitment to her community and Alameda County will be greatly missed.”
Alameda police said the city holds post-collision site visits for all major and fatal collisions and in the coming weeks, police officers, public works and transportation planning employees will conduct a review of the collision site.
Chan is survived by two children and two grandchildren.
Chan's office issued the following statement, “The family thanks the first responders and medical staff that provided wonderful care to Supervisor Chan, and they request privacy at this time.”