FREMONT (CBS SF) — Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman was recalled Friday as one of the most significant and respected people in the city’s history.
At a memorial service at the Harbor Light Church that was attended by about 500 people, City Manager Fred Diaz said the legacy of Wasserman, who died last week at the age of 77, “is bigger than anyone else’s in Fremont history.”
The city “has no greater example of success and dedication than that of Bob Wasserman,” Diaz said.
Former Fremont police Capt. Mike Lanam said when Wasserman was recruited to be the city’s police chief in 1976 “he took a fledgling department and brought it to state and national prominence.”
Wasserman’s 40-year career in law enforcement included a term as president of the California Peace Officers’ Association and being named Law Enforcement Executive of the Year, Lanam said.
He said that when Wasserman retired from law enforcement in 1992, instead of slowing down he ran for and was elected to the Fremont City Council, where he served for 12 years until he was elected mayor in 2004.
Diaz said among Wasserman’s accomplishments as mayor were developing a general plan, bringing new businesses to the city and spurring BART to build a new station in Fremont’s Warm Springs district, a project that is underway but not yet completed.
Diaz said Wasserman “fought hard” to keep the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. plant in Fremont, which was a joint venture of Toyota Motors Co, and General Motors, from closing.
After it ultimately shut down on April 1, 2010, he supported efforts to find other uses for the large facility, including Tesla Motors’ use of part of the land to build a premium electric sedan called the Model S, Diaz said.
He said Wasserman was also closely involved in what he described as “high stakes and complex negotiations” with Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff to build a baseball stadium in Fremont so Wolff could move the team to the city and was disappointed when Wolff said on Feb. 24, 2009, that he would stop those efforts in the face of strong opposition by neighborhood groups.
Wolff is currently working on trying to move the team to San Jose but hasn’t received approval to do so from Major League Baseball.
Former Fremont Fire Chief Dan Lydon said Wasserman “took it hard” and had a sad face for a long time after Wolff abandoned his efforts to bring the team to Fremont.
But Lydon said Wasserman “left a 35-year history of accomplishments and did what he said he would do – give us an honest day’s work.”
Wasserman “lived every day for the city of Fremont and left his fingerprints on the city of Fremont,” Lydon said.
Diaz said Wasserman considered himself to be a centrist politically and “his true gift was his ability to bring people together.”
He attributed that to Wasserman’s growing up in the Boyle Heights district in East Los Angeles, which he described as “a poor and tough neighborhood” and “a melting pot.”
Diaz said, “That was his proving ground and helped him relate to people of all backgrounds.”
Rabbi Avi Schulman of Temple Beth Torah in Fremont said Wasserman “sought to benefit all of our citizens and his word was his bond” and described him as “a kind, trustworthy man who earned our respect and admiration.”
Wasserman is survived by his wife of 53 years, Linda, their two children, Dan and Jill, and four grandchildren.
Vice Mayor Anu Natarajan is serving as Fremont’s interim mayor until the City Council decides how to fill the rest of Wasserman’s term.
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