The Pleasanton community is mourning the loss of former mayor, bank executive and community service leader Robert "Bob" Philcox, who died at home surrounded by family last Saturday. He was 88.
Philcox, who also served in public office with the Zone 7 Water Agency Board of Directors, sat on the Pleasanton City Council for one term during 1974-78, including a turn as the city's mayor in 1976-77 back when the mayor was selected from among the council instead of directly elected by the voters.
His service on both public agencies came at crucial junctures in the recent history of the Tri-Valley.
"His tenure on the City Council was typified by his thoughtful efforts to sensibly and sustainably grow the Pleasanton community, as the city began developing into the premier place it is today," said current City Manager Gerry Beaudin, who ordered the flags at the Pleasanton Civic Center lowered to half-staff on Tuesday in honor of Philcox.
"Through his leadership, Bob helped prepare Pleasanton for a period of transformative growth that positioned the city for long-term success. Today we honor Bob's memory in gratitude for his service to our community," Beaudin added.
Zone 7 General Manager Valerie Pryor said of Philcox's time, which came from 1978-82, "It was an exciting time for Zone 7’s groundwater basin since imported water from the State Water Project had ensured that the 1977 drought did not severely impact water supplies."
"Water quality was on the minds of the Board at that time and in particular the development of guidelines and procedures that protected groundwater quality from the application of wastewater," Pryor told me. "Mr. Philcox’s service on the Board brought about an era of greater focus on groundwater quality."
Philcox's impact on the Pleasanton community was wide-ranging.
A Brooklyn native, Philcox moved to Pleasanton as a young man with his family in 1954 after his father, a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, was transferred to Camp Parks in Dublin, according to the family's obituary on the Weekly's Lasting Memories page. Philcox would go on to serve in the U.S. Army and Reserves himself.
He started working that year as a teller at First National Bank of Pleasanton and rose through the ranks in his career to become president and CEO of the rebranded Community First National Bank in the Tri-Valley in 1990. He later worked as executive vice president at Diablo National Bank and then as a director of Diablo Valley Bank.
Philcox entered public office during a critical period in Pleasanton as the city prepared for the growth of the late-1970s and '80s. Among the materials Ken MacLennan, curator of the Museum of Main, sent me of Philcox in their archives is a photograph of him at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the civic center in 1974.
Around one term on the City Council and one term with Zone 7, Philcox remained active in community organizations including the Rotary Club of Pleasanton, Alameda County Fair Association Board of Directors, Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council Board of Trustees.
He was involved with the Main Street Master Plan and Amador Theater Renovation committees too.
Philcox also attended many community events – the headshot with this article is from him attending the grand opening for Lexus of Pleasanton in June 2019 – as well as kept a keen eye on city politics well after his elected service.
"I first met Bob Philcox while helping former Mayor Thorne campaign for City Council. It was clear to me then that he was still committed to ensuring Pleasanton continued to be a great place to live and do business," Councilmember Kathy Narum told me.
"Throughout numerous campaigns, Bob was there supporting candidates that were committed to making Pleasanton an even better community to raise a family," Narum added.
Philcox is survived by his wife Orley, and children Bobby Jr. and Nancy. A celebration of life has been scheduled to honor Philcox on Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Livermore.
"To the family of Pleasanton's former Mayor Robert Philcox, please accept my deepest condolences. I am grateful for Mr. Philcox's extended years of service to our community, and his heartfelt love for Pleasanton," current Mayor Karla Brown said.
As the news of Philcox's death arrived to us on Monday morning, it's hard not to think about the fact this is the third obituary article I've written for a former Pleasanton mayor in less than a year. Bob Butler died Oct. 5, 2021; Jerry Thorne passed on March 27, just 15 months after leaving office.
When expanded in the Tri-Valley, we've also covered the deaths of former Livermore mayors Helen Tirsell (Sept. 5, 2020) and John Shirley (Dec. 22, 2021) since the pandemic began.
Each left unique and immense impacts on their communities before, during and after their time in the mayor's chair. The Tri-Valley would not be what it is today without them.
Editor's note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Embarcadero Media East Bay Division since February 2017. His "What a Week" column publishes on the second and fourth Fridays of the month.