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July 11, 2006 > In Memoriam

In Memoriam

by Steve Warga

As required by law, a calling of the roll occurs before every public meeting of a deliberative body; councils, commissions, boards, and committees, all must record members present or absent. Throughout his life, Mateo "Matt" Jimenez answered the call, whether in school, in the Navy, with the fire department or on the city council. They were all called in Hayward, except for his stateside service during World War II, and it was in his home located in his beloved native city that Jimenez answered the final roll call Monday, July 3 at the age of 83.

A little over a month ago, Jimenez won re-election to a seventh term on the Hayward City Council, the term he envisioned as his last. He would have been sworn-in on July 11 for four more years. Although he was fighting a debilitating sciatic nerve condition, Jimenez never lacked vigor in the sometimes lengthy meetings and hearings that were part and parcel of his city council commitments. To the end, he retained his quick-witted ability to liven those meetings and never lost sight of his own sense of doing the right thing for Hayward citizens.

Quality was the hallmark of all his achievements. In the Navy, Jimenez was "volunteered" for an exhibition boxing match against a Coast Guard champ as part of a war bond fundraiser. Outmanned in both size and experience, the tough young man from Hayward listened to his trainer, kept his head under pressure and won the bout. Visitors to the Jimenez household would always be shown the framed photo of Jimenez and his opponent squaring off on either side of celebrity referee, Jack Dempsey, retired heavyweight champ.

Jimenez brought the same tenaciousness and ambition to his work with Hayward's fire department, where he served as chief for 25 years. Leading a movement to establish a professional department, he phased out the all-volunteer force and then led the department to national and international recognition.

During his 24 years of service with the council, Jimenez never failed to support programs and projects aimed to improve the lot and lives of Hayward citizens. He is credited with many small, but significant acts like the removal of downtown parking meters. All the while, he was a tireless champion of further upgrades to fire department personnel, equipment and facilities, including the stylish station downtown on Main Street.

Since his unexpected passing occurred while he was still in office, the city council must now decide how to fill Jimenez' vacant seat. According to the City Charter, the council may call a special election or immediately begin accepting applications for the open seat, then select a replacement within 30 days. City Clerk, Angelina Reyes, indicated that the council will take up the question on Tuesday, July 11 when they are also scheduled to induct new mayor, Mike Sweeney. The 30 day period of time will commence then, as that will be the first time in 24 years that Council Member Jimenez will miss the roll call.

It will be more than a simple "here" or "present" that will be missed. Jimenez' unique, signature response might have sounded corny coming from anyone else; from him, it was straight from the heart. When his name was called, the firm response was, "Present, and it's a pleasure and a privilege to serve the people of Hayward."

Well, Matt, your service to your city was a pleasure and a privilege that will long be remembered with much gratitude. May you rest in peace.

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