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For someone who served but one four-year term on the Martinez City Council, Noralea Gipner got an outsized outpouring of love as she departed the council this past week.
“You had an amazing four-year term of service to the city — it boggles my mind,” said Martinez Councilwoman Lara DeLaney, who with other council members credited her with leading the campaign for the city’s 2018 Measure X half-cent sales tax; for helping bring a second baseball team, the Martinez Mackerel, even if the COVID-19 pandemic stopped the team from playing; and her work to help the homeless obtain services ranging from showers and clothing to long-term places to live.
“You have left a legacy in four years that will be almost impossible for anybody to match,” DeLaney said.
All four of Gipner’s council colleagues shared similar remarks at the council’s reorganization meeting Wednesday where Gipner made her formal departure from the council and newly elected Brianne Zorn was sworn in.
Zorn, a member of the Martinez Planning Commission, edged Gipner out in a close race in November with 51.67% of the vote.
Debbie McKillop, who was chosen Wednesday night as Martinez’s new vice mayor, called Gipner “Martinez’s greatest ambassador,” a truth-teller who doesn’t sugarcoat things.
Councilman Mark Ross said Gipner has no political agenda, no conniving. “You just did it … and that’s how you’ve always been.”
And Mayor Rob Schroder told Gipner, “I truly believe you got into this for all the right reasons.”
Back on the clock
Gipner, noting that Wednesday night was the last time she’d get to speak at council meetings for more than three minutes, thanked her colleagues, the people who voted for her and supported her, and city staff that “work their buns off around the clock,” and who deserve extra patience and support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She spoke most at length about her efforts to reach out to the homeless in Martinez, teaming with police, county health workers, faith groups and other advocacy groups to organize a weekly event near Waterfront Park featuring showers, clothes and food. Gipner led the formation of the Homeless Action Coalition, which became a nonprofit in June.
Gipner also mentioned the “shelter-in-place homeless encampment” she helped establish at the John Muir Amphitheater, also near the waterfront. Approximately 30 homeless people live there at any given time, with tents set up on wooden platforms to keep them dry, and with established chore rotations.
“We are building a community who watch over each other and help each other,” Gipner said. “Certainly they are not perfect, but neither are we.”
Schroder told Gipner she would be a “hard act to follow,” and that task falls to Zorn, a wetlands scientist who said her main council priorities are advocating for open space preservation, continuing city efforts to further the ongoing social justice/equity discussion, improving city parks and improving/preserving the city’s waterfront.
Zorn encouraged residents to get involved in plans for the future of the city’s popular fishing pier, and supports the city’s efforts to apply for a state grant for needed pier repairs.
Among the people Zorn thanked, including her family and those who helped her win election, was Gipner, with whom she said she wants to work going forward.
Gipner said she will still be around, doing her work with the homeless and other things.
“I’ve been getting stuff done,” Gipner said. “That’s always been my forte.”