FORMER SANTA CLARA Mayor and Councilmember Patricia Mahan died Saturday.

Mahan, age 71, died from liver, kidney and heart failure. She fought cancer five times, according to her sister, Jeannie Mahan. After becoming a lawyer in 1980, Mahan opened a private practice, specializing in tax and estate planning, later becoming a consistent presence on the Santa Clara City Council beginning in 1994. 

Born and raised in Santa Clara, Mahan served as the second female mayor of the city. She was elected mayor in 2002 and re-elected in 2006. She had numerous stints as a city councilmember, serving from 1994 to 2000, and then again in 2010 and 2016. She resigned in 2020 for health reasons.

Mahan’s husband, John Boyles, said she was a caring person, who was committed to her community. She went out of her way to do things for people, he said.

“She loved Santa Clara,” he told San José Spotlight, “and always tried to do what was best for the city.” 

Former Police Chief Mike Sellers stands with Santa Clara councilmembers (Patricia Mahan third from right) ahead of his retirement. (San Jose Spotlight file photo)

Mahan loved to travel and visit their vacation house in Montana where she enjoyed skiing, fly fishing and kayaking. She and Boyles rode motorcycles together.

“We had a lot of adventures together,” he said. “It was a wonderful life.”

Jeannie Mahan said her sister was kind, gentle and empathetic. She said Mahan looked out for people and gave free legal advice. 

“We were a very close family,” Jeannie Mahan told San José Spotlight. “There were holidays and birthday celebrations with cousins and swimming in the backyard. We were always together.”

Sisters from left, Patricia, Bernie and Jeannie Mahan grew up in a close-knit family. (Photo courtesy of Jeannie Mahan)

Jeannie Mahan said her sister was an eloquent speaker, excellent writer and artistic. Her sister taught her patience.

“Being in politics she couldn’t let things bother her,” Jeannie Mahan said. “She was very serene and sure of herself. She was very good at listening and giving good advice.”

Jeannie Mahan said the city was very dear to her sister’s heart, and she was proud of her time on the city council and as mayor.

“Being in politics she couldn’t let things bother her. She was very serene and sure of herself. She was very good at listening and giving good advice.”

Jeannie Mahan, Patricia Mahan’s sister

Mahan was instrumental in the development of the Northside, enhancing the entertainment district and installing Santa Clara’s own public utility, Silicon Valley Power. She pushed for the completion of the San Tomas Aquino Trail and  protecting the Ulistac Natural Area. She advocated for district elections and later fought against Measure C, which tried to make the city three districts instead of six.

Her lasting contributions

Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor said Mahan worked tirelessly and faithfully for the city and community she loved.

“As one of the longest serving members of our city council, former Mayor Patricia Mahan fearlessly led the city through many milestones and historic moments, like the Great Recession and development of Levi’s Stadium,” she told San José Spotlight. “She was an ardent advocate for historical preservation and instrumental in our Sister City program relationships. Her memory will be cherished and her contributions will continue to resonate within our Santa Clara community.”

To Councilmember Anthony Becker, Mahan was not only a mentor and teacher, but a really good friend. He will miss chatting with her over breakfast, and he fondly recalls her driving him in her convertible during the Silicon Valley Pride Parade. Becker said Mahan was a trailblazer, paving the way for building housing and investing in infrastructure.

“She was honest, direct, trustworthy and a major city icon as its second female mayor,” he said. “She was a dedicated public servant who put her community first. She will be greatly missed.”

Patricia Mahan and Santa Clara Councilmember Anthony Becker. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Becker)

Becker said Mahan was a powerful leader who got things done and was a consummate professional during political disagreements. He said she recently told him she was happy the city was putting policy before politics, increasing transparency and investing toward the future.

Through the years, Becker said he appreciated Mahan’s advice and support. He said she gave him confidence to run for office and told him to never give up trying to make a difference. They collaborated to improve the environment and people’s lives, he said.

“It was a privilege to call her my friend,” Becker said. “It’s heartbreaking to see her go.”

Rich Robinson, a longtime consultant and political observer in Santa Clara, said he came to admire her leadership. He said her credibility and ability to articulate the benefits of having the stadium there helped alleviate residents’ fears. She also helped with some of the negotiations, he said. Robinson said Mahan was very likable but also tough on policy. She was able to move people based on her sincerity.

“There are people in public office who are true public servants,” he told San José Spotlight. “People who actually do the job for the benefit of the citizens they represent. Patricia Mahan… embodied that spirit of public service.”

Mahan is survived by her husband John Boyles, a retired San Jose police sergeant, son Colin Boyles, stepson Sean Boyles and sisters Jeannie Mahan and Bernie Mahan. She had four nieces and nephews.

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at lorrainegabbertsjspotlight@gmail.com.

This story originally appeared in San Jose Spotlight.