PIEDMONT -- New Mayor Margaret Fujioka looks back to the numerous other female Piedmont mayors for inspiration, while looking ahead to the rewards and challenges she will face leading the City Council.
She will preside over her first council meeting as mayor onMonday, alongside newly hired City Administrator Paul Benoit. She also will be working with two new council members -- Tim Rood and Teddy Gray King.
"I will walk in the shoes of these great mayors who preceded me, particularly the women mayors," said Fujioka, who is the first Asian American woman to serve on the council.
"The women were trail blazers, setting a high bar for the women who follow them.
"Going forward I'd like to see more women involved in civic leadership," she continued. "It's important to showcase and encourage their outstanding achievements."
To that end, Fujioka hopes to organize a Piedmont civic volunteer of the year award and a women's summit or forum.
Former Mayor Valerie Matzger has high praise for Fujioka's abilities.
"Margaret is especially good at listening and offering good counsel," Matzger said. "She understands that being a council member and mayor means that your commitment is not simply to attend meetings, but also to be a problem solver as you listen to concerns of Piedmonters.
"Margaret understands that residents expect (high levels of) service; this can be a challenge for a small city with a lean staff. With her extensive background in city government, Margaret is very well prepared. We are so fortunate to have her leadership," Matzger said.
Fujioka has a five-point plan for her term.
"Strengthen our finances, improve public safety, address aging infrastructure, enhance communication through technology and encourage civic engagement," she said.
"We'll conduct a review of current payment practices, consider city website improvements and improve the process for citizen input."
The council recently approved establishing a permanent public safety committee, something Fujioka advocated during her term as councilwoman since she was elected in 2008 as the top vote-getter.
"We have to keep pushing forward on crime prevention and disaster preparedness. It's not a question of if but when we will experience another crime wave or a major earthquake might happen," said the new mayor.
Fujioka strongly supports private-public partnerships for capital improvement projects that have enjoyed success in town, such as the renovation of the tea house in Piedmont Park co-funded by the Piedmont Beautification Foundation and other projects.
"It is the most fiscally responsibile way to move forward," she said.
Fujioka is up for the challenges that will face the council this year. They will be working with a new administrator who follows in the steps of 25-year veteran Geoff Grote.
"Paul is a people person," she said, referring to Paul Benoit, the new city administrator. "He will do just great. I got to know him through the interview process. We will work in a collaborative and positive way. He shares my view to move Piedmont foward. "
She speaks of the "IT" factor: integrity and teamwork. She also reflected on the hurdles the council dealt with the past year: completing negotiations with all the city's bargaining groups, hiring a new police chief, fire chief and finance director, and settling the lawsuit with Friends of Moraga Canyon over the failed Blair Park project.
Outgoing Mayor John Chiang lauded Fujioka as "a great partner. We worked effectively through some challenging issues in the last two years," with Fujioka as vice mayor.
"We were a great team, working together on the subcommittee for the selection of our new city administrator," Chiang said. "Margaret listens to all viewpoints, looks for common ground and alternatives to build consensus. With her legal background, she looks out for the best interests of the city and has done a great job with her public safety committee initiative."
Fujioka, who holds a law degree from Hastings College of the Law, will also continue with her job as an administrative hearing officer for the city of Oakland.
She formerly was a deputy city attorney for the city of Oakland. She was busy with civic affairs long before she joined the council. She served as chair for the Capital Improvement Projects Committee, is a member of the Piedmont Asian American Club, the Piedmont League of Women Voters, the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area and the National Women's Political Caucus.
Her duties will expand to include attending mayor's conferences and officially representing Piedmont in other ways.
"I wish Margaret all the best and success in achieving the goals that she has established. I am looking forward to her leadership as mayor," Chiang said.