Gail Steele, one of the legends of Alameda County politics, died on Friday morning.
Steele represented the Hayward and parts of Tri-Cities on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors from 1992-2010. She also served eight years on the Hayward City Council from 1974-1982.
During her long political career, Steele was a consistent advocate for the youth, including at-risk children and those in foster care. She also pushed to expand mental health services for young people.
In between Steele’s service in local government, she founded the Eden Youth Center in 1976 and served as its executive director until 1992.
News of Steele’s death signaled an outpouring of praise for her life.
“Hayward has lost a legend,” Hayward Councilmember Sara Lamnin wrote on Facebook. “Gail Steele fought for our children. Made sure we never forgot those lost to violence. Advocated for all health services. Empowered community collaboration & much more. She loved her family & was a friend to so many of us. May her memory be for a blessing.”
“One of the ‘old growth redwoods,’ Supervisor Gail Steele, has fallen in our forest,” wrote Arlene Nehring, senior minister at Eden United Church of Christ in Hayward. “May she Rest In Peace and Power. May her memory be a blessing. And, may God give us strength to rise up like ‘a ring of angels’ around the place where she took root.”
After announcing her retirement in 2010, Steele’s opinion on county and local matters remained valuable to a stable of current and up-and-coming elected officials.
For a brief moment, the pull of public service almost brought Steele back to the Board of Supervisors in 2012 in the aftermath of Nadia Lockyer’s abrupt resignation from the District 2 seat she once held.
Some viewed her possible appointment as a place-holder until voters could select a new supervisor in two years. Steele, though, eventually pulled her name from consideration. Current Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle was later selected by the board.