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June 5, 2007 > The first four: Fremont's first city employees

The first four: Fremont's first city employees

An important responsibility of Fremont's first City Council was to select the first employees. The first four were Leroy A. Broun, Frank Madruga, Robert R. Blacow and Jane Hicks.

Leroy A. Broun was born in Georgia and graduated from Auburn University with a degree in chemistry before the age of 20. He worked as a chemical engineer and teacher and married Beatrice (Bee) Taylor of Roanoke, Virginia. Broun earned his law degree at the University of Southern California in 1938, passed the bar and practiced in Long Beach. During World War II, he served in the Air Force, then retired as a Colonel and came to Centerville in 1946 to practice law with Judge Norris. He promoted the formation of the City of Fremont and handled many legal details of the incorporation.

An organizer, Broun was the first president of the Southern Alameda Bar Association. He was also the first World War II Commander of Washington Township American Legion #195 and served as president of the local Red Cross, Township Men's Club and St. James Men's Club.

The first Fremont City Council agreed that one of their greatest immediate needs was legal advice, so they employed Broun as city attorney on a "for free" basis until the city was certified. He then served as city attorney for three years.

Frank Madruga was born in Newark and lived all his life in the area except during Navy service. His early years were spent helping his dad operate their Newark farm. He took over A.B. Randall's Centerville Garage and Machine Shop, operating it for many years. He married Elsie Costa who started her teaching career at Stonybrook School in 1917 and went on to serve as teacher and principal of Alviso School for 29 years.

Frank became assistant fire chief in Centerville in 1923, was a firefighter for the Navy from 1942 to 1944, was promoted to fire chief at Centerville and chosen as the first fire chief for the City of Fremont. Retiring in 1960, Frank kept in touch with many firefighters. He was a member of Centerville Lion's Club, Holy Spirit Church and several firemen's organizations.

Robert R. Blacow was one of five children of Richard and Lena Blacow. He grew up in Centerville, graduated from Washington High School and joined the staff of the Bank of Alameda County in Alvarado in 1910. He remained as manager of the Niles branch when the area banks were taken over by the Central Bank of Oakland and later by the Western Bank and Trust Co.

Robert married Miss Effa May Steele, a graduate of the University of California and a teacher at Irvington Elementary School, in 1914. They lived for a while in the residence of Assessor Horner on the Centerville-Irvington road and then established their home on a knoll described as "one of the show places of the community."

"Bob" was appointed Fremont's treasurer at the first official council meeting in January 1956 and served without pay for 10 years. Gladys Williamson wrote in 1960 that councilmen studying the budget could skip gratefully over the record of income and outgo for the City Treasurer because Robert Blacow served without a salary. When he retired in 1966 his duties were taken over by Martin Allen, the City Finance Director.

Blacow was a charter member of the Niles Rotary Club, a member of Orient Chapter 177 of O.E.S. and a 15th degree member of F.& A.M. Lodge 167. He also served as chairman of the advisory board of the First Western Bank branches in Washington Township.

The city signed a contract with Louis J. Kroger and associates and they supplied the city with a temporary clerk. That clerk was Emma Jane Hicks, an expert in administrative procedures who had already served as a city clerk, assistant city manager, executive secretary and director in several organizations.

Miss Jane Hicks set up city headquarters in room 13 of the Alameda County Office building on Fremont Avenue (now Peralta), and "things began to hum." The first day Jane accepted Michael Overacker's nomination papers for the required April election, ordered office supplies, handled requests for information, and answered the phone "umpteen" times. She also received requests for six dog licenses and had to explain that the "canine legislation hasn't been worked out yet." Four men applied for jobs on the Fremont police force, which had not yet been formed. At the end of this first day Jane observed, "Life will never be dull in Fremont." This remark could later be called "the understatement of the year."

A photo in the News Register dated February 9, 1956 identified Jane as "Miss Fremont." In a way this was true since she was running a solo operation in two rooms at the County Office Building. She was processing up to 30 building permits daily and handling most of Fremont's routine tasks and necessary negotiations with Alameda County.

The new City of Fremont was indeed fortunate to have these capable and willing employees.

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