A couple of days after her stunning victory in last week's Oakland mayoral race, Libby Schaaf was asked by an interviewer, "How do you plan to change the perception that Oakland is riddled with crime?"
Her answer was revealing. "Change the reality," she said.
Typical Libby: Attack the problem, don't spin it.
I first met her at a fundraising party 30 years ago, while she was still in school, although we have slightly different memories of the encounter.
Her memory is that I was the only grownup who didn't talk down to her like a kid.
My memory was that I spent so much time talking with her because she was the only interesting person in the room.
Right away I knew I had met an extraordinary young person - smart, wise beyond her years, whose love for her home town was obvious. I thought, "Wow. Wouldn't it be nice if she became mayor some day?"
And now she has. I'm happy for her, but I'm even happier for Oakland, a wonderful town that deserves the leadership I know she will give it.
Richard Nixon – probably not one of her favorite politicians – once said, "Some people want to BE President; others want to DO president."
Libby has never wanted to BE mayor. She wants to DO mayor. And that's going to happen, largely because she follows the maxim of another Republican politician: Ronald Reagan, who said, "There's nothing you can't accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit."
That's Libby through-and-through, too. Even though she was on the City Council for only four years before winning the mayor's job, she already compiled an impressive record of forging alliances,
She has a few other things going for her, too, including a real mandate – unlike her predecessor, she led the ballot count wire to wire – and a reputation for fair dealing.
Most of all, she has the people of Oakland themselves, who have always been the city's greatest asset. Especially her own generation of thirty/fortysomethings, who are trying to be part of the solution, each in his/her own way.
People like Sophia Chang, founder of Kitchener Oakland, a support and resource for new food businesses of every kind.
And Kev Choice, the multitalented jazz keyboardist/composer/producer who is just as likely to be found registering voters at political events as performing up on stage.
And graffiti artist, hip-hop dancer, toymaker and photographer Jessica Sabogal, one of the leading lights of the Oakland Arts Renaissance.
And event producer Sarah Kidder, who runs Oaktown's pride and joy, the monthly Oakland First Fridays festival. When the bands, artists, attendees and cops all agree the event is cool, fun and safe, you know you're doing something right.
I've been waiting a long time for this generation to take charge. Now's their time, and Libby's election is just the leading edge.
So best wishes to Mayor-elect Schaaf and the city she loves so much. I have a feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
P.S. Libby's election is a historic milestone in another way. It's the first time a former Children's Fairyland Storybook Personality has been elected Mayor of Oakland. In 1975 she was Raggedy Ann. And her best friend, Leslie Zimmerman, who later was the maid of honor at her wedding, was Raggedy Andy.