Contra Costa County's newest supervisor is settling into her new role in the position filled until recently by her longtime friend, late
county Supervisor Gayle Uilkema.
Candace Andersen, 51, stepped down from her long-held role as mayor of the town of Danville and was sworn in as county supervisor six months ahead of schedule on Tuesday after Gov. Gerry Brown answered calls from several elected officials, labor leaders and other supporters to appoint her, she said.
Andersen received 60 percent of the vote in June's primary election and was originally set to join the Board of Supervisors in January. She now represents District 2, which spans Danville, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Walnut Creek, San Ramon and unincorporated areas.
"We knew that given the fact that we lost our dear friend and colleague last month that there was a vacancy that needed to be filled,"
Andersen said of her early appointment to the county board.
Before Uilkema lost her life to cancer in May, Andersen said, the longtime District 2 county supervisor encouraged the Danville mayor to take
over her seat.
The two worked together for several years on various county boards and developed a friendship.
Even after Uilkema stepped down from the board earlier this year, Andersen recalled, "She loved to call me and give me campaign advice."
In a nod to the longtime supervisor and colleague, the Danville resident and mother of six wore a suit in Uilkema's signature red during her swearing-in ceremony in Martinez Tuesday.
But Andersen's similarities to the late supervisor go beyond the sartorial - like Uilkema, she pledges to focus on strengthening the county's public safety resources while cutting costly pension plans.
Serving on Danville's town council since 2003, Andersen helped ensure that public safety made up the bulk of the town's budget, she said.
"People want to live in a safe community, they want to know that they're safe in their homes and that their streets are being well patrolled...and they want to make sure that justice is served when crimes are committed," she said.
But Andersen said cutting rising pension expenses for the 8,000 county workers that fill public safety and other roles would likely be one of
the greatest challenges she will face on the board.
"I want to make sure we're taking the path...of reigning in pension costs - they're not sustainable," she said.
She said that while the board has used new formulas to reduce the county's employee pension plan costs over the past few years, "we are going
to have to go further."
For now, Andersen is still adjusting after leaving her longtime office at Danville's Town Hall.
"We're very sad to see Candace leave, in the sense that she has been a great asset to the community and a great community leader," said
Danville Vice Mayor Newell Arnerich. "Having Candace represent the San Ramon Valley...is really, I think, perfect for our community in truly getting a voice that understands the development challenges and other challenges here
in the San Ramon Valley."
The Town Council is set to select a new mayor at its July 3 meeting.