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James Wilson spacee

James Wilson: 1930–2014

Former councilmember was quiet force behind new Town Hall

By Deirdre McCrohan


James Gerald "Jim" Wilson, who served on the Tiburon Town Council from 1984 to 1988, died Nov. 25 of complications of Parkinson's disease at his home at Villa Marin in San Rafael. He was 84.

Mr. Wilson and his wife, Joan, moved to Villa Marin not long ago, but for the 45 years they lived in town, Mr. Wilson was very active in civic affairs.
Although he was appointed to the council at a time of great upset and division of opinion about the town's controversial building moratorium, Mr. Wilson managed to stay nonpartisan and was known for his smiling unflappability.

His time on the council was focused on getting a proper Town Hall built. Town boards had previously met at Del Mar Middle School, Tiburon Lodge and, finally, a portable building that was plopped down on a vacant lot that is now the site of the Tiburon Police Station.

As a councilmember, Mr. Wilson championed an unsuccessful local ballot measure that would have financed construction of a new Town Hall on the hill where the Dairy Knoll recreation center now stands, atop Ned's Way.
That failed, but in 1994 he was named to the Downtown Committee, which looked at downtown sites for a new Town Hall. The council finally approved the current site at 1505 Tiburon Blvd. In 1996, Mr. Wilson and former Tiburon Mayor Hal Edelstein headed a task force to oversee its construction.

He was the pro bono project manager, and later the project co-manager for the construction of the police station, built soon after.

John Kern of Stewart Drive was the other co-manager.

"Jim was one of the finest contracting specialists in the country, and he was so thorough and meticulous that nothing ever got overlooked," said Kern, who became good friends with Mr. Wilson during construction. "Tiburon especially owes him a tremendous debt."

"He was so dedicated to doing a good job," said former Tiburon Mayor Larry Smith, who served on the council with Mr. Wilson. "He was bright and smart. Councilmembers on that council were a special bunch as far as I was concerned. We didn't agree with each other all the time, but we respected each other."

"He was a dear man," said former Tiburon Mayor Joan Bergsund, who served on the council when Mr. Wilson was on the Tiburon Planning Commission from 1973 to 1983, chairing the board at least two years. "He was so quiet and was always so generous of his time and his considerable knowledge."

"Tiburon has lost a good neighbor," said Valerie Bergmann, a former Del Mar resident who served on the council in a term that overlapped Mr. Wilson's. "He worked so hard on behalf of the Town Hall and he never sought the limelight. He was a quiet man with wonderful ideas, and he had a gentle approach to problem-solving, but he had a strong voice."
Mr. Wilson declined a turn as mayor, saying at the time that he thought the honor should go to an elected councilmember.

Born June 15, 1930, in Waterloo, Iowa, to Clarence and Mary Wilson, Mr. Wilson grew up in Rockford, Ill. He and his identical twin, Dick, delighted in switching places to trick family and friends throughout their lives, even into their adulthood. His wife, Joan, liked to tell her family she had a legitimate concern she might end up marrying the wrong twin on their wedding day in 1954; 60 years later, she was pretty sure she ended up with the right man.
Mr. Wilson earned his bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of Michigan in 1953 and his master's degree in architectural engineering from the University of Illinois in 1958. He also did a 1970-1971 postgraduate fellowship at Stanford University.

During the Korean War, Mr. Wilson served in the U.S. Navy, rising to the rank of captain as a line officer in engineering and communications. For many years after the war, he served in the Naval Reserve.

The Wilsons first lived in Long Beach, then moved to Marin and settled in Tiburon in 1968, where he built the family home.

He worked in private practice as a structural designer and civil engineer in San Francisco for five years, then went to work for the U.S. General Services Administration overseeing the design and construction of federal buildings. He later served as general manager for the design and construction division of the U.S. Postal Service, where he oversaw the design and construction of all postal facilities in the western U.S.
After he retired in 1987, he remained active professionally as a construction consultant and industry expert for another 20 years.

He was a board member of the Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies for 10 years and was active in the Del Mar Property Owners' Association, doing several turns on the board of directors.

He was also a member of the Naval Reserve Association, now the Association of the United States Navy, the Society of American Military Engineers and American Institute of Architects and was a fellow for the American Society of Civil Engineers.

A devoted fan of the University of Michigan football team, he always wore the team sweatshirt and other fan paraphernalia when he watched games. He loved food of all kinds, classical music, world travel — visiting post offices wherever he went — and relaxing at the family's second home at Lake Tahoe.

"His family was his pride and joy," said his daughter Sue Cawdrey.
In addition to wife Joan Hoover Wilson, a retired Reed Union School District teacher; brother Dick Wilson of Albuquerque, N.M.; and daughter Sue Cawdrey of Fair Oaks, Mr. Wilson is survived by three other children, Greg Wilson of Moraga, Nancy Wilson of Corte Madera and Janet Wilson of Hermosa Beach; two sisters, Norma Stein of Port Barrington, Ill., and Shirley Blake of Bonita Springs, Fla.; 10 grandchildren, Kevin, Tim and Chris Wilson, Danny, Ryan and Kelsey Cawdrey, Alex Wilson, and Nicole, Hayley and Courtney Maeda.

His brother Jack predeceased him.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 3 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 240 Tiburon Blvd. Donations in his memory may be sent to Autism Speaks, 1060 State Road, Second Floor, Princeton, NJ 08540, or go to





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