Like many tied into Pleasanton social media circles, a May 28 post from the city’s most-recent former mayor, Jerry Thorne, caught my eye: A photo with wife Kalee outside their house in town with a “Sold” sign announcing their forthcoming move to Arizona.
“Bittersweet” was a word that came up several times when I spoke with Thorne by phone last Friday to reflect on his departure from Pleasanton, a community in which he lived and served for decades, including as mayor for eight years through November 2020.
“I’ve lived in Pleasanton — ah jeez — for 50 years, so it’s going to be a hard move from that perspective. I have lots and lots of friends that I’ve gained,” Thorne told me.
“I don’t mean to put down the ‘sweet’ part of it because it is going to be kind of a nice change,” he added about the relocation to an age-restricted community in Marana, Ariz. in a couple weeks. “We’re looking forward to it.”
“This is absolutely my retirement,” the 76-year-old said.
Understandable that Thorne would look forward to deserved rest and relaxation. He never really enjoyed even a respite from “work” after retiring from Agilent Technologies after a long career with Hewlett Packard in the first place.
The transition out of the professional world into city service life happened “almost the next day,” he recalled with a laugh.
Thorne poured himself more into his Pleasanton Parks and Recreation Commission duties, and then soon found himself pursuing a seat on the City Council. He was in the middle of his second full term on the council when voters elevated him to mayor in 2012, and he would serve in the head chair for the maximum of four two-year terms.
Pleasanton had so many highlights during his city tenure, but to get a humble man with perspective like Thorne to call out favorite accomplishments was no easy task.
“What got me involved in politics to begin with was the 50-meter pool at the aquatic center,” he said. “Most of the really positive things were the parks that we managed to build, the activities that we managed to build for the community’s kids.”
He also pointed to Highway 84 widening and safety improvements between Livermore and Sunol, an oft-cited priority for Thorne as mayor, to help alleviate cut-through commute traffic on Pleasanton streets.
“I think the relationships that we developed between the Tri-Valley cities is something that I really point to as a positive … we were able to get together and accomplish so much in terms of funding, Highway 84 and things of that nature,” he said.
Compromise was another positive theme for Thorne, particularly solutions on projects among developers, neighborhoods and other stakeholders.
“And I would caution this (current) council to make sure they take a look at being able to compromise rather than confrontational solutions. They just don’t work,” Thorne said.
In terms of unfinished business. Thorne cited only one thing — preserving local control.
“To be very honest with you, I’m a little bit concerned about the direction that California is going in, particularly with the Legislature that we have now. They seem to be interested in doing local government’s job,” he said, no doubt with an eye toward Arizona.
In the fight to preserve local government rights, the Tri-Valley cities have a true ally in the State Senate, according to Thorne: “Steve Glazer is a godsend.”
But it probably won’t be enough.
“They’re demanding a certain number of houses, what price categories they’ve got to be in and all of that sort of thing. That’s not the job of the State Legislature,” Thorne said. “It’s sad because we’re probably going to end up overbuilding Pleasanton.”
Pleasanton will always remain close to Thorne’s heart, and if the city were a person, I’d guess the feeling would be mutual. The community followed some major moments in Thorne’s personal life right alongside his mayoral accomplishments, in part due to the “community newspaper” commitment of my predecessor Jeb Bing.
Our archives include “Mayor’s daughter wed in Ireland” — the 2013 nuptials of Thorne’s only child, Keri Thorne Gough. In 2015, a photo item showed his then-infant grandson, born abroad, visiting the mayor’s office in Pleasanton for the first time.
We were there to report the sad news of the passing of Thorne’s first wife Sandi in 2018 — and I’ll always remember reading that memorial press release from the city during my sister’s wedding weekend.
We likewise shared a Take Us Along with the happy news of Thorne’s marriage to Kalee during his final term.
And some of us were aware of the health impacts that forced Thorne to step away as mayor several weeks earlier than scheduled last November and the ensuing treatment for precancerous cells on his pancreas. Fortunately the prognosis is looking quite positive.
“They did what they call a Whipple operation for a different reason and found these spots. They weren’t necessarily full-blown cancer at that point. So we started chemotherapy right away,” he told me. “Hopefully it’s all gone. Actually it was all gone the last time I had a scan.”
Those personal moments are as much a part of the story of Jerry Thorne’s legacy in Pleasanton as his tenure with the city government.
Safe travels to your new home in Dove Mountain.
Editor’s note: Jeremy Walsh has been the editor of the Pleasanton Weekly since February 2017. His “What a Week” column runs on the first and third Fridays of the month.