Influence, like pornography, is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Below are the people who I think are the most influential individuals in Marin County’s 160-year history. The selection process was subjective and, like history itself, imperfect. I intended to name 12 people, but ended up with 13. The following books helped me greatly in compiling this list: New Guardians of the Golden Gate, Amy Meyer (University of California Press, 2006); Marin, a History, Barry Spitz (Potrero Meadow Publishing, 2006); and Saving the Marin-Sonoma Coast, L. Martin Griffin (Sweetwater Springs Press, 2000).
1. William Kent (1864-1928) Yale educated, settled in Marin 1907; was an environmentalist (saved Muir Woods); a developer (Kentfield) and three-term congressman (Progressive Republican). He was a friend of John Muir, responsible for much of Marin’s open space, and helped create Mount Tamalpais State Park.
2. William Richardson (1795-1856) Born in London, arrived in California 1822, became a Mexican citizen, changed his name to Guillermo, married daughter of the Presidio’s commander, was granted 20,000-acre Rancho Saucelito in south Marin; considered the
area’s first settler; namesake of Richardson Bay.
3. John Reed (1805-1843) Marin’s first non-Hispanic landowner, also married a daughter of Presidio leader. Started first ferry to San Francisco; was granted the 8,900-acre Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio; had homes in Sausalito and Mill Valley; died at 38.
4. Gary Giacomini (1939- ) Born in Marin, served 24 years as county supervisor; helped establish “three corridor” planning concept; 20 years on Golden Gate Bridge District board; ten years on Coastal Commission; helped found Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) and Marin Community Foundation (is now chair of MCF).
5. Barbara Boxer (1940- ) Brooklyn-born, came to Marin in 1968 and led opposition to Russian River water, effectively limiting growth. County supervisor (1976-1982); helped establish West Marin’s restrictive zoning; represented Marin/California in Congress and the Senate for past 24 years.
6. George Lucas (1944- ) Recently named by The Atlantic as the 12th most influential living American (between the Rev. Billy Graham and Michael Jordan); moved to Marin in 1969; started Lucasfilm (1971)
and Industrial Light and Magic (1975); filmed Star Wars; built 4,700-acre Skywalker Ranch in West Marin.
7. Caroline Livermore (1885-1968) Vassar educated, mother of five; moved to Ross in 1930; helped found Marin Conservation League, Audubon Society, and Art and Garden Center; promoted Marin’s first countywide plan and four state parks, including Angel Island, where Mount Livermore is named for her.
8. L. Martin Griffin (1920- ) Medical doctor; moved to Marin after World War II; in 1960s and ’70s helped establish Audubon Canyon Ranch and wildlife sanctuaries along the Bolinas Lagoon, Tomales Bay and Richardson Bay; wrote Saving the Marin-Sonoma Coast.
9. Phyllis Faber (1927- ) and Ellen Straus (1927-2002) Often mentioned together as founders of Marin Agricultural Land Trust, which since 1980 has raised more than $31 million for preservation of 38,000 acres of West Marin as farm and ranch land.
10. Doug Maloney (1933- ) Attorney; won lawsuit that enabled Meryl Buck’s gift of millions to the San Francisco Foundation for “Marin’s needy” to continue benefitting Marin; led to Marin Community Foundation’s formation, which now has $1.1 billion in assets.
11. Vera Schultz (1902-1995) County’s first female and first college-educated supervisor; championed a Frank Lloyd Wright–
designed civic center, having a county planning director, the redevelopment of Marin City, and the preservation of Richardson Bay.
12. Dietrich Stroeth (1936- ) Marin Municipal Water District’s general manager during the nearly disastrous drought of 1976-77: imposed severe rationing; considered towing icebergs from Chile before installing a pipeline across the Richmond Bridge to end the 25-month-long ordeal.
13. Beth Ashley (1924- ) For over 30 years—with time-outs for writing assignments in Washington DC, USSR, and China—human interest columnist for the Marin Independent Journal; considered by many to be the “soul of Marin County.”
That’s my “baker’s dozen” point of view. What’s yours? Any additions, subtractions, or corrections?
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