Remembering Mayor Irma Anderson


Mayor Irma Anderson appeared on an episode of "Historical Elected Officials and Community Leaders" with former Councilmember Nat Bates.

The Life of a Trailblazer: Celebrating the Life, Legacy and History of Former Richmond Mayor Irma L. Anderson

City of Richmond Mayor

1993-2001, City of Richmond Councilmember

R.N., B.S.N. Cornell University, New York

M.P.H. School of Public Health, U.C. Berkeley

Irma AndersonMayor Anderson was the youngest of three children born and raised in Boston. Mayor Anderson attended high school in Boston where she was very active in school activities and became president of the student body, was the high school valedictorian and graduated with honors. She attended Cornell School of Nursing and was the second Black student to attend and graduate.  In 1959 she came to Richmond, California with her husband the late Reverend Booker T. Anderson Jr., a former Mayor and City Councilman for the City of Richmond and Pastor of Easter Hill United Methodist Church for ten years.  

Mayor Anderson was inspired by Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm who, in 1968, became the first black woman to be elected to the United States Congress. Ms. Anderson’s favorite quote was “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.”― Shirley Chisholm

Mr. and Mrs. Anderson had two sons, Ahmad and Wilbert. Mayor Anderson’s sphere of influence included her children, and grandchildren and she strongly encouraged excellence in her children against the backdrop of racism and bigotry. Ahmad is a graduate of St. Mary's College Preparatory High School and the University of California , Berkeley.  Ahmad went on to pursue his Masters in Organizational Psychology at Columbia University, N.Y. He is presently the Director of People & Culture at the Gardens of Golden Gate Park. Wilbert graduated from St. Mary's College Preparatory High School as well and Dartmouth College , Hanover, New Hampshire and Harvard School of Business. He was the Fine Clothing and Watch Buyer for Macy's East at the time of his death in 1995. Her beloved grandson Brandon attended St. Mary’s Preparatory High School, and went on to graduate from Stanford University. Brandon followed in his grandmother’s footsteps to enter the health care field where he attended both Howard Medical School and Anne Arundel Medical School. He is a breast and surgical oncologist working at Ironwood Cancer and Research Center in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

Mayor Anderson was employed by the Contra Costa County Health Department as a staff Public Health Nurse and worked in every classification advancing to the highest level as Director of Public Health Nursing. Mrs. Anderson was the first Black Assistant Director and the first Director of Public Health Nursing in Contra Costa County.  

She attended UC Berkeley School of Public Health, where she received her Master’s degree. During her professional career at Contra Costa County Health Department, she was actively involved with several professional organizations; she served on the National Credentialing Board of the American Nurses Association, served several terms as a governing Council member with the American Public Health Association, and also served on the Board of Local Directors, Public Health Nursing.  Mayor Anderson also served as a non salaried clinical instructor in Community Health for the UC School of Nursing in San Francisco. Upon retiring as Director of Public Health Nursing in 1992, Mayor Anderson ran for Richmond City Council.  She was successful and became the first Black female City Councilperson on the Richmond City Council.  She also enjoyed the honor of receiving the highest number of votes ever in the history of council elections. In 1997 Mrs. Anderson was re-elected to the Richmond City Council, again receiving the highest number of votes.  In 2001 Mrs. Anderson ran for the Richmond Mayor and was successful becoming the first Black female elected Mayor of a major California city.  

During her tenure as Mayor, Mrs. Anderson was instrumental in developing a historic partnership with the West Contra Costa Unified School District dubbed Kids! First to cultivate and expand after-school programs throughout Richmond.  The Kids! First partnership secured over $1.8 million dollars to begin 3 pilot after-school programs in the City. Additionally, Mrs. Anderson was successfully lobbying hard to secure Richmond its fair share of transportation dollars which include $12 million from the State for a Richmond Ferry Service in 2010. She was a part of the council that helped to redesign Civic Center Plaza, continuing work on the Council’s commitment to the Civic Center Master Plan. 

Mayor Anderson held a “Richmond Rises Above Violence Conference” and encouraged the City Council to adopt a public health approach to violence prevention. Subsequently, the City created an Office of Violence Prevention, which later became the Office of Neighborhood Safety, a nationally recognized violence intervention strategy. 

During her tenure as mayor, Mayor Anderson served on numerous boards and commissions for the benefit of Richmond residents, more than could possibly be listed. 

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Mayor Anderson’s experiences in local government include, but not limited to, the following responsibilities:

1.    Commissioner – Metropolitan Transportation Committee, MTC

2.    West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee, WCCTAC

3.    Contra Costa Transportation Authority, CCTA

4.    Chair, United States Conference of Mayors Children, Health, and Human Services Committee

5.    Co-Chair, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) North Richmond Task Force

6.    At-Large Member, East Bay Public Safety Corridor

7.    Member, Administrative & Legislative Committee, ABAG

8.    Member, Shaping our Future Project


Mayoral Accomplishments

MISSION STATEMENT: 2005-06

The Mayor’s Office, provided leadership in policy and economic development and represented the City in ceremony and policy bodies at the regional, state, national and international level.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 2004-05

  • Worked with City staff to present a balanced budget to Council for the 04-05 fiscal year;
  • Initiated the development of approximately 622 housing units constructed this year, including 278 affordable units with another 611 housing units in pre-development ;
  •  Worked to create the climate that brought in 430 new businesses and $148,853 in new business license revenue for the City coffers;
  • Maintained the Kid’s First After School Program offering academic math, literacy, athletics and community service training at John F. Kennedy High School, Richmond High School, LaVonya DeJean Middle School, Martin Luther King, Jr., Elementary School and Lincoln Elementary School without budget or program cuts;
  • Assisted in the fundraising for celebratory events promotions including; the yearlong Richmond Centennial celebration, the annual Snow Ball, Juneteenth, Richmond Steelers, Martin Luther King Day, East Bay YMCA events and others;

OBJECTIVES: 2005-06

  • Increased transparency in Council decision making by working with staff and Clerk to make the Council Agenda and documentation available to the public five working days before the scheduled meeting;
  • Develop a fully funded, City-wide Youth Investment Program that will provide a unified strategic plan involving City Government, non-profits, government agencies, youth and active citizenry;
  • Worked with the Richmond Police Department, City Council and active community members to implement an anti-violence strategy that will incorporate prevention, public health and suppression tactics to make our City safer; 
  •  Lead the creation of 600+ new housing units in the City;
  • Continued to create a welcoming business environment to support new businesses in our community;
  • Continued to emphasize local hiring and small business development.

Mayor Irma L. Anderson was respected in many circles beyond the City of Richmond, and her accomplishment in breaking barriers and glass ceilings reverberated  across the county. 

Mayor Anderson was preceded in death by her husband, a pastor at Easter Hill who worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the heart of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and also served as a Richmond city councilmember and mayor in the 1970s. He died in 1982. She is also preceded in death by her son Wilbert, who died in February 1995. She is survived by her eldest son, Ahmad. She influenced, mentored and trained a host of community members and civic leaders. As her health started to fail earlier this month, Ahmad said that his mother greeted the moment with peace, saying, “I’ve lived a great life.”

Mayor Anderson would often quote Congresswoman Chisholm and say, “ Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.” She would usually follow with “ When my time on this earth  is complete,  I want my legacy to be that I paid my rent.” We agree, Madam Mayor. You certainly did.”