Gene Mullin, former teacher, South San Francisco mayor and California State Assembly member, died last week. Coastsiders who worked alongside Mullin remember his kindness above all.

A South San Francisco resident and San Mateo County history buff, Mullin’s legacy in the halls of Sacramento is as an advocate for education and affordable housing. But long before he began his career in local government as a member of the South San Francisco Planning Commission back in 1972, Mullin was a teacher.

“You couldn't find someone who didn't know Gene Mullin,” said Chris Hunter, who worked as editor of the Pacifica Tribune while Mullin was in office. Hunter later went to work for the assemblyman during his final year in office. “It’s a real loss to San Mateo County.”

While representing the 19th District in the California State Assembly, which at the time encompassed the entire Coastside and Northern Peninsula, Mullin chaired the housing and biotechnology committees and sat on several others, including the education committee.

He was an avid listener and learner, and earned the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, Hunter remembers. Mullin had a unifying effect, bringing in new ideas from far and wide to build a stronger future for the Coastside and help improve local cities, taking a special interest in local history and parks. Hunter said he wanted to continue that work, and would have if it weren’t for term limits at the time.

“He wished he could have continued,” Hunter said. “He had reached a level of prominence that was important to California, the assembly and to Gene.”

Mullin won a 2004 Pantheon Award for his public support of the sciences and a 2005 League of California Cities Legislator of the Year Award for leading the region on housing issues. His work to pass Measure K has pumped millions in local tax dollars into affordable housing countywide, MidPen Housing Corporation Policy Director Nevada Merriman wrote in a San Mateo Daily Journal opinion piece last week.

His son, Kevin Mullin, continues his father’s work, having served in the California State Assembly since 2012 representing District 22, which encompasses Pacifica and much of the Peninsula.

Susan Kennedy, Kevin Mullin’s communications director who worked for the elder Mullin earlier on in his career, remembers him as a tireless advocate for civic education. It’s a baton he saw passed to his son last year when he got a measure to enfranchise 17-year-olds set to turn 18 before the general election on the ballot. But Mullin’s legacy is not in what he did, but in how he did it — and she hopes his kindness and generosity will continue to touch the lives of Coastsiders.

“It lives on in his kids, Kevin and Jennifer, and it will live on in his grandkids and with those of us who were fortunate enough to work with or for him,” Kennedy said. 

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