ALBANY -- A memorial service will be held Aug. 24 for former Mayor Bill Cain, who suffered a fatal heart attack on Aug. 2. He was 67.
"It's a shock to all of us," said his widow, Suzanna Yeh.
Cain spent four years on the City Council and six on the school board. He also served on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
His removal as commissioner in 1995 because of his opposition to a casino proposal at Golden Gate Fields sparked a citizen's initiative in 1996 that changed the city charter to prevent similar actions in the future.
Cain also played a large role in securing funding to rebuild Albany High School and Albany Middle School.
"We made numerous trips back and forth to Sacramento in his convertible," said Marsha Skinner, who served on the school board with Cain. "We had a very difficult time getting that hardship funding. He was invaluable on the board in getting funding for both of those projects."
Cain's expertise as an engineer played a large part in his testimony. He spent nearly 20 years as an associate civil engineer for the East Bay Municipal Utility District.
"Bill was a really nice guy," said David Pratt, engineering manager at EBMUD. "He was really dedicated to his craft. He was in the top three or four easy. Probably in the top two. One of the best structural engineers we had here. The ratepayers were real lucky to have him."
William James Cain was born Feb. 21, 1947. He earned an A.A. degree in engineering from Taft College and then a bachelor's in civil engineering and a master's degree in structural engineering and structural mechanics from UC Berkeley.
During his time in Albany, he was a key figure in the Albany Little League in addition to his government service. He helped raise five sons -- three from his first marriage and two stepsons from his marriage to Yeh.
Skinner said that Cain stood out because of his politics. Or lack thereof.
"The main thing I would say about Bill, he didn't run because of a particular slant, he didn't run because of a particular group," she said. "He grew up in a small town and believed everyone needed to serve. And he took his turn. He was always prepared. He read his stuff before each meeting."
The controversy over Cain's removal as Planning and Zoning Commissioner in November, 1995, led to significant changes in how commissions work in Albany.
Cain had been appointed to the commission by Councilwoman Elizabeth Baker. But after plans for a casino at Golden Gate Fields were unveiled, Cain, along with appointees to other committees, came out in opposition. Baker then demanded all of her appointees resign.
Jerri Holan was Baker's appointee to the Waterfront Committee and was also asked to resign. When they refused, the council voted to remove them from their positions. To that point, appointees served at the pleasure of the council member who appointed them.
"We were dismissed," Holan said. "I called (Bill) up and said, 'This is really unfair, we should do something. Maybe we should amend the city charter.'"
While the City Charter Review Committee proposed some reforms, they didn't go far enough, according to Holan. So they went ahead with their initiative.
Measure O, the Charter Committee's reform measure, was easily defeated, while Measure Q, the citizen's initiative, passed. Now, committee and commission members may only be removed for cause.
Cain was also involved in the building of the city's new library and community center.
In his professional life, Cain helped manage EBMUD's seismic improvement program, a $200 million project to improve water facilities in the East Bay. He was also the project engineer on the Claremont Tunnel Seismic Upgrade project, which was a major component of the seismic work.
Cain also worked with the Association of Bay Area Governments on disaster preparedness, specifically with plans for restoring water service after an earthquake.
"He was very active in developing emergency plans," Pratt said. "Here's what we're going to do, these are the areas that we're going to repair first to get the most water back to the greatest number of people."
Cain served on the board of Rebuilding Together East Bay North for 23 years. The nonprofit group, formerly known as Christmas in April, helps low-income seniors and disabled homeowners with upgrades and repairs to their houses.
Cain spent his final years living in Berkeley. He is survived by Yeh as well as sons Bob, Tom, Michael, David and Michael.
A memorial service will be held at the Albany Library, 1427 Marin Ave., at 1 p.m. Aug. 24. It is open to the public. A tribute is also scheduled for the City Council meeting on Sept. 2.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation in Cain's name be made to Rebuilding Together East Bay North.