Wilma Chan

ALAMEDA — Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, 72, died on Wednesday afternoon after being struck by a vehicle.

Her chief of staff, Dave Brown, released the following statement:

“Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan passed away at 2:30 p.m. today. Earlier in the day, she had been walking her beloved dog, Maggie, and was struck by a vehicle. She suffered a serious head injury and was rushed to a hospital, where the medical staff was unable to revive her.

“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.

“She is survived by two children and two grandchildren. The family thanks the first responders and medical staff that provided wonderful care to Supervisor Chan, and they request privacy at this time.”

The Alameda Police Department reported, “Just after 8:00 a.m., on Wednesday, Nov. 3, the Alameda Police Department responded to the intersection of Shoreline Drive and Grand Street for a report of a collision involving a vehicle and a pedestrian. Upon arrival, officers located an unresponsive adult female in the roadway. The woman was transported by the Alameda Fire Department to a local hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries. 

“The driver of the vehicle, an adult female, remained on the scene and is cooperating with the investigation. At this time, the cause of the collision is yet to be determined … The investigation is ongoing and no additional information will be released at this time.”

“I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Supervisor Chan,” Alameda Chief of Police Nishant Joshi said. “She made so many contributions and touched so many lives during her 30 years of public service where she served with equity as her guiding principle. My heart goes out to her family, her friends, and all who loved her.”

Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said in a statement, “On behalf of the Alameda City Council and the City of Alameda, we extend our deepest sympathy to the family, friends, and colleagues of Supervisor Wilma Chan …

“Supervisor Chan, an Alameda resident, was a longtime dedicated public servant who served the residents of Alameda for more than two decades as a former State Assembly member, and speaker of the Assembly, and on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Chan was a tireless advocate for seniors, children, and families, promoting programs that advance children’s health, and help lift people out of poverty, and so much more.

“Her compassion, strong sense of community, and devotion to the people she served will be profoundly missed.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf posted, “Like many, I am devastated by the untimely passing of my dear friend and colleague Supervisor Wilma Chan. Wilma was a tireless public servant, a champion for inclusion and equity, and a fierce advocate for public health and our most vulnerable residents.

“As an Oakland Unified School Board director, a State Assembly member for Oakland and Alameda, and a county supervisor representing Oakland and our Chinatown, San Antonio, and Fruitvale districts, Wilma fought for a better future for every resident, for every family.

“I feel honored to have worked with her on so many critical initiatives over the years that included addressing the vast racial health disparities during the pandemic, funding more affordable housing and services for the homeless, and providing more resources for education.

“We served as co-chairs for many years on the Youth Ventures Joint Powers Authority and Oakland Thrives Leadership Council. Just last week I joined Wilma in Chinatown to promote the heroic work of our Asian Health Services clinic, who due to Wilma’s stewardship and advocacy continue to provide healthcare for Oakland’s most underserved communities.

“I will miss Wilma dearly and I extend my deepest condolences to her children and grandchildren, and to all of the communities she represented.”

Supervisor David Haubert said, “I am deeply saddened by the tragic loss of my colleague … Her dedication to serving our community and helping others for over 30 years will never be forgotten. I am grateful to have had the opportunity work with her. May she rest in peace.”

The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said, “Every day, we worked with Supervisor Chan and her staff to better the lives of the people in District 3 and greater Alameda County.”

Sheriff Greg Ahern added, “I am saddened to learn of the tragic passing of Supervisor Wilma Chan. 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 Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said, “Supervisor Chan was 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 address issues of poverty. Her influence and commitment to her community and Alameda County will be greatly missed.”

Former San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy said, “With the sudden and shocking death of Supervisor Wilma Chan, I wish to honor her memory and legacy. Incredibly intelligent and knowledgeable, Chan represented San Leandro (along with the City of Alameda and parts of Oakland) on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors for multiple terms of office. She was a fierce and accomplished advocate for the elderly, children, the medically uninsured and others on the margins of society.

“Of particular interest to San Leandrans, Chan played a decisive role in saving San Leandro Hospital from closure by Sutter Health. At the time the hospital was the only acute care hospital with an emergency room in our city. Its loss would have been devastating to the community.

“Chan found a leverage point to convince Sutter to keep the hospital open and transfer its ownership to the publicly controlled Alameda Health System. It was my honor to work closely with Chan on this initiative.

“I offer my condolences to her family, friends and dedicated staff.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond posted: “Wilma was a friend, colleague, and mentor and will be sorely missed. Over the years I was privileged to work with Wilma on programs to expand mental health and human service programs. She was a tireless advocate for children and families and words cannot  truly capture this loss to the communities she represented over the years.

“There is no better example of a smart, hard-working, committed public servant and leader. Sending love, prayers, and condolences to her family.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) said, “My heart is broken today. Wilma was a great leader for the East Bay and the entire state, a consummate public servant, and a true friend to me and so many others. She was a trailblazer as the first Asian American Assembly majority leader, and she worked tirelessly for this community for decades.

“I first met Wilma when we worked on the Jesse Jackson presidential campaigns in the 1980s and got to know her as a brilliant and principled woman who truly believed in giving a voice to the most marginalized to make their lives better. My thoughts and prayers go to her family and loved ones.”

Steve Phillips, host of the “Democracy in Color” podcast and former member of the San Francisco Board of Education, said, “This is beyond tragic, and I’m still trying to process it. I met Wilma during 1984 Rainbow Coalition days. She was one of the first activists from that time to run for office, paving the path for many of us who followed. Such sad news. Seize the day, y’all, seize the day.”

Chan’s fellow Asian American elected officials and other community leaders reacted to the tragedy.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta: “I am heartbroken and reeling to learn of the death of my friend Wilma Chan. Wilma was a barrier-breaker. She was an inspiration and role model to so many — including me. Wilma was a no-nonsense, roll-up-your-sleeves, about-the-work kind of leader.

“She was unapologetic, unrelenting and impatient for change when it came to helping people, especially children and the most vulnerable. Wilma leaves a powerful legacy of equity and justice. She will be deeply missed.”

Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell): “Life is precious. Wilma Chan made history as the first Asian American to serve in California leadership as majority leader.”

Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco): “Shocked and saddened to learn about the loss of Supervisor Wilma Chan. She was an AAPI trailblazer and fighter for those who had no voice. When she was elected to Assembly in 2000, there were no AAPIs serving in either house. She fought for health care, the environment and immigrant and civil rights. She contributed so much, yet had so much more to give. Thank you for everything!”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Santa Clara): “My deepest condolences to Wilma Chan’s family and loved ones. She was a dedicated public servant and champion for families in the Bay Area. She will be deeply missed.”

Former Assemblymember Mariko Yamada (D-Davis): “Shocking and saddening news. Tomorrow is not promised; be kind always and tell all those you love that you do.”

San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu, former member of Board of Supervisors and State Assembly: “This is such tragic news. Wilma Chan was an icon in the Asian American community and fought tirelessly to lift up all Californians. This senseless traffic violence needs to end.”

Oakland City Councilmember Sheng Thao: “Supervisor Wilma Chan has been an amazing public servant, friend, mentor, and inspiration to many of us. I’m absolutely devastated to hear of my dear friend’s passing.

“As an Asian woman in office, Supervisor Chan represented a community that has often not had a seat at the table. Her dedication to her constituents was second to none, and she was a fierce defender of justice and empathy.

“I will continue to hold Supervisor Chan and her loved ones in my heart, and I send my deepest condolences to those closest to her. I continue to be committed to pedestrian safety, so that nobody fears for their lives while walking or biking in their community.

“Rest in power, Supervisor Chan, and know your work will have a lasting impact on the communities you served.”

Former San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar: “Shocked and saddened by the news … Horrible loss to our communities and Oakland and Alameda County.”

Sherry Hirota, CEO of Asian Health Services: Sherry Hirota, CEO, Asian Health Services: “Supervisor Wilma Chan was the personification of leadership, courage, and impact without ego. Her tenacity and humane values were the constants that were woven through all she touched — her relationships, her legislation, and her initiatives.

“She was our champion — yes she valiantly represented our AAPI community but also all communities of color and vulnerable people. And with all her heart and soul: she fought for community health centers, health care for all, and she advocated so effectively for children, and access to healthy food.

“She did not hesitate for even a second when called upon to stand up for and with controversial or unpopular issues, be they immigrant rights or language and cultural access, and so much more.

“It will take some time to even process this great loss to our collective community in the East Bay. Supervisor Wilma Chan’s legacy as a stateswoman and pioneer will be felt for generations to come.”

Janelle Wang, NBC Bay Area news anchor: “Heartbreaking news … She was an incredible public leader and human being. She loved her community and we loved her for it. RIP Wilma Chan.”

C.C. Yin, Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs founder: “We are all stunned to hear of her passing. I just talked to her yesterday. Wilma is a dear friend who dedicated herself to the East Bay community and our state. She was a trailblazer who became the first Asian to serve as a supervisor for Alameda County and as California Assembly …  majority leader for her district.

“She supported our chapter leaders and student interns throughout her district for over three decades. Whenever we reached out to her, she would show up to support us. This is a tremendous loss to everyone. Wilma will be dearly missed, and our hearts go out to her family.”

California Democratic Party Asian Pacific Islander Caucus: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan. She was an incredible force for good, a fierce and compassionate leader, and an inspiration for the API community. We share our deepest condolences to her family, loved ones, and all the hearts she touched.”

Chinese for Affirmative Action: “She was a trailblazing activist for Asian Americans in the San Francisco Bay Area and we are proud to have stood alongside her in the fight for social justice.

“Supervisor Chan’s dedication to immigrant families has made our communities safer and stronger. She served as one of the first Asian Americans in the California State Assembly, and it was a special privilege for CAA to work with her on education equity issues facing limited-English-proficient parents.”

Decades of Public Service

Born to Chinese immigrant parents in Boston on Oct. 5, 1949, Chan earned her bachelor’s degree at Wellesley and a master’s degree in education policy from the Stanford Graduate School of Education. From the late 1960s to the ’80s, she was involved in Bay Area far-left political movements as a member of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L), where she served as chair of the National Asian Struggles Commission.

Chan was first elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 1994, becoming the first Asian American to do so. She was re-elected in 1998. In 2000, while serving as president of the board, she ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination for State Assembly and defeated the incumbent, Audie Bock, in the general election.

During her six-year tenure, the maximum allowed by term limits, Chan served as majority leader and whip, chaired the Health Committee and the Select Committee on Language Access to State Services, and was vice chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. She passed more than 70 bills and resolutions.

In 2008, Chan ran for the District 9 seat in the State Senate but lost in the Democratic primary to Assemblymember Loni Hancock of Berkeley. In 2010, Chan ran for her old seat on the Board of Supervisors and won. She was re-elected in 2014 and 2018.

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