SN&R’s interview with former Sacramento Mayor Anne Rudin
Anne Rudin chats with SN&R on the Kings, Romney vs. Obama, using email in her 80s and strong mayor
Anne Rudin is 88 years old and busy. The former mayor of Sacramento has been out of office for 20 years, but in many ways, she still thrives in mayor mode. She answers my email promptly, for instance, and uses her given name, Anna. She’s still passionately involved with city issues and invites political candidates seeking her endorsement to her Land Park-area home, where she’s lived for nearly 60 years, and interviews them during lunch.
The mother of four children and now a great-grandmother, Rudin is still recognized often at the gym she frequents three times a week. And several passersby said hello during a recent SN&R interview while Rudin sipped ice tea at an outdoor table of a restaurant a few blocks from her home.
Do you think the job of mayor has changed since you were in office?
I don’t think it has. When I was mayor, I had to do everything. There were a lot of issues. In fact, several of my friends recently asked me what I did when I was mayor. They’re kind of concerned the present mayor feels he doesn’t have the power to do the things that a mayor should do. So I made a list and I brought a copy, and I will give it to you [writer’s note: She did]. I took initiative on things. I introduced ordinances. I got laws passed. I made a lot of changes.
So, there’s no excuse for saying you have to give the mayor more power in the city charter so he or she can get more done. He or she can get more done right now, because I know that’s what I did. Think Big Sacramento is a nice, catchy slogan, but I don’t know what it means.
You look like you are in good health. How do you spend your time?
I have a lot of activities, but not as many as I used to. I’m trying to stay away from organizational activities. I don’t want to be on any more boards. I don’t want to have long-range responsibility. But I am involved in a lot of issues. I am supporting candidates, working on campaigns. I have to. I have to make sure we get the right people in City Hall.
Is there an issue you’re most passionate about?
When I got out of public office, I got invited to join any number of organizations. At one point, I was on 14 boards. That’s when I wore myself out and said, “I’m not going to do this anymore. I’m going to have to be a little more selective.” I can’t remember all of the boards I was on. Now, I take on issues.
Right now, the current issue I’m dealing with is one I’ve been involved with since I was mayor. It has to do with improving the levee trail along the Sacramento River so that people can have access to the levee. People whose property backs up to the levee have fences and locked gates up there so people can’t come through. That is illegal. We are in the process of opening it up, and little by little, we are going to get it done.
What else is important to you?
Local nonpartisan politics. The local politicians are very important. They’re running the day-to-day operations of our city, the things that affect us most directly. Secondly, they are the ones who want to move up. I want to make sure we have the right ones who transition from the local to the state level. I am supporting Joe Yee for city council, and there are other good candidates. I am supporting Joe Yee because he has more experience than the other candidate who won the primary.
Mayor Kevin Johnson has close connections with the NBA and has spent a lot of time on the arena issue. Do you have an opinion about the best way to resolve the Sacramento Kings situation?
I think sports are very important. I felt that way when the arena was built and we were trying to get the Kings. It’s not the foremost issue, but it is important. It’s entertainment. I’ve gone to the Kings games, and I’ve gone to the River Cats games. I was so glad when they got that team over in West Sacramento. I had been approached by representatives of several major sports when I was mayor. We had other opportunities in Sacramento.
In 1992, you opted not to run for re-election for mayor after two terms. Is that right?
It was after serving two terms and one year and, before that, three terms on the city council, so I was tired by then. I had put in full time. I just felt, “Well, I just know Joe [Serna is] waiting his turn. I know Joe Serna was waiting for me to leave office.” But I didn’t do it for that reason.
Recently, Campbell Soup Company announced it is shutting down its Sacramento plant, and just before that Comcast announced it is closing Sacramento-area call centers. Combined, it’s about 1,000 lost jobs. Do you have an opinion about the local job situation?
I feel so sorry for people who are losing their jobs, but when I was mayor, and for years before that, I was on a board that tried to entice businesses to come to Sacramento. We were told that businesses weren’t concerned about the cost of doing business here. They were concerned about other things, like what kind of clientele they were going to get here. Sacramento was at the crossroads between Interstate 5 and [highways] 50 and 99, and there was good public transportation. It was those other factors that wanted to make them stay here. I thought about that when I heard Campbell was leaving. It’s always been a very friendly town for businesses.
Do you use the Internet a lot, and are you involved in social media?
Well, when it serves my needs I am. I have a lot of activities. I get up in the morning, and I turn on my computer. I usually find that there are 15-20 [emails] that came at night, or even after I’ve already checked my email. I find it’s an easy way to communicate.
How do feel when you are recognized?
It’s delightful to know people still remember me. It’s nice that they have good recollections of what I did. They may not all be close friends, but they remember things that I did, and that makes me feel good. So, I never complain about being recognized.
You were against development of Natomas, right?
Yes, I believe [former city Councilwoman] Lynn Robie and I were the two votes against it. It was kind of tough, because I knew I was going to be criticized for it. I thought we were going into it too fast, and we were doing it for reasons other than the good reason for growth. We had areas in the city that needed to be filled in. We have a lot of communities that should either be improved or renovated before we go out and take farmland. But the farmers wanted to get rid of their lands. They knew they were going to get a lot of money for it. I also knew it was the wrong thing to do when plans I voted against required something like 50 mitigation measures to make it developable.
There’s a contentious election coming up to determine our next president. What are your thoughts?
I always admired the Romneys, because we bought two Ramblers [editor’s note: Gov. Mitt Romney’s father was president of American Motors for eight years]. As the governor of Massachusetts, it sounded like [Mitt Romney] was doing a lot of good things in health care, but I don’t really know if he really was doing good things for health care. I don’t think he made it possible for more people to afford health care.
I am all for President [Barack] Obama. I think he should be treated with more respect than he is getting from his opponent. That is something I don’t like about politics, when they start hammering on each other. He is the president: I may not agree with everything he is doing, but I think he is doing the best he can, given all the obstacles he has to try to get changed. I think he could have gone further with the health issues, and I think he felt he did what he could, although I don’t know what obstacles he ran into. I think his intentions are good, and I will support him again.
Perhaps it’s premature, but there’s a pretty prevalent thought that Hilary Clinton will be a presidential candidate in 2016. Do you have an opinion?
I supported her before, and I would support her even more now. I think she is the most intelligent woman in our country. I admire her greatly. When I hear her talk and I see her making an appearance, she understands the foreign situation. I don’t think we could find a better person to be president. I would support her all the way.
You will be 89 next January. You look terrific. Can you pinpoint the things that have allowed you to be so healthy and allowed you to be so active?
Good genes. I haven’t outlived my father’s age. He lived until he was 98. I had to fight with an insurance company to buy a policy as an investment because of my age. I finally got them to do it because I pulled every string I could. I let them know I am healthy. I go to the gym three times a week. I do the treadmill, and I do work with weights. I do exercises to increase my upper-body strength. I’ve been doing it for eight years. I feel very good about it. I have to get used to the fact that we all have to go sometime. But right now, I am enjoying life as it is.