OAKLEY -- One of this city's civic leaders is being remembered for his love of politics and longtime commitment to public service.

Jesse Dwight Meadows, 71, died at his home May 13 after a battle with cancer.

The Arkansas native had made a name for himself in Oakley since moving with his wife to the then-unincorporated town in 1972.

Meadows worked with his father-in-law at a tire shop and feed supply store on Main Street, and soon began buying and selling undeveloped properties to developers as well.

Some of the parcels he kept had vineyards, which became as much an avocation as a business.

And then there was politics.

Over the decades, Meadows held elected positions on local and regional agencies, building a résumé that resonated among others in the world of local politics.

For 25 years, he served on the board of Ironhouse Sanitary District, where he was known as a man who had strong opinions and was adept at expressing them.

"He was good at making his cases, getting his ideas across," said General Manager Tom Williams, who credits Meadows as one of the driving forces behind the district's purchase of Jersey Island.

Meadows viewed the move as environmentally responsible, a way to recycle the district's treated wastewater by growing hay that it then could sell, Williams said.


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Meadows later moved on to the board of the Contra Costa Resource Conservation District and, in 1994, to the county's Local Agency Formation Commission, where he acquired an expansive knowledge of jurisdictions' boundary changes as the longest-serving of the agency's 11 commissioners. Just last month, he had been re-elected for another four-year term.

Although soft-spoken, Meadows had control of the microphone as the board's chairman, and when he used it he didn't mince words.

"He spoke his mind -- he didn't sugarcoat anything," said Executive Officer Lou Ann Texeira.

When he died, Meadows was close to seeing the last of three unincorporated areas adjoining Antioch annexed to the city, a long and contentious process that had tested his patience.

"He wanted it done," said Texeira, recalling Meadows' pointed remarks that a power plant had been built in Antioch while stakeholders haggled over how to divvy up tax revenue.

Meadows' level of civic involvement -- he also served on Sutter Delta Medical Center's board of directors and belonged to the Contra Costa County Farm Bureau -- led to the chamber of commerce naming him Oakley Citizen of the Year in 1997.

Oakley resident Rico Cinquini says Meadows had a natural bent for business, and as his partner in real estate ventures, he learned to trust his investment advice.

"It's gotta be born in you, and Dwight had it," Cinquini said.

Meadows also had a head for grapes, says Brentwood farmer Tom Bloomfield, who recalls the extensive research he did to develop the vines best suited to Oakley's sandy soil.

"He really put Oakley on the map as a prime Zin location," he said.

Indeed, a bottle of Zinfandel that Alameda's Rosenblum Cellars made from Meadows' grapes not only won best of show at the 2003 California State Fair but also was named among the top 100 wines in the world that year by Wine Spectator Magazine.

While much of the community knew Meadows for his work accomplishments, there was another, less well-known side to him.

He told corny jokes, good-humoredly teased his children's friends when they were young, and doted on the four grandchildren his son and daughter gave him.

He and his wife, Carla, satisfied their wanderlust on road trips that took them around most of the United States as well as on cruises to Mexico, the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

In recent years, Meadows had taken to raising pumpkins and Indian corn to use as yard decorations in the fall; simple pleasures also included enjoying his favorite Rocky Road ice cream with the grandkids, trips to Tahoe and tuning into multiple TV news shows.

"We watched them all. I guess he was kind of a news junkie," said Carla Meadows.

Friends are invited to a celebration of Meadows' life at 11 a.m. Friday. The gathering will be at Club Los Meganos, Trilogy at the Vineyards, 1700 Trilogy Parkway, Brentwood.

Donations may be made in his name to the American Cancer Society.

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her on Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.

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