Anne McMahon, 57, who died Saturday at her Santa Margarita home after a seven-month battle with cancer, was known for her keen intelligence and sense of humor.
Referring to her as “my dear friend,” Rep. Lois Capps said, “Anne was one of the first Congressional staffers (my husband), Walter, hired when he was elected in 1996, and she was a tremendous asset to the office and the constituents of the 22nd Congressional District.
“Anne was a wonderful writer,” she added, “having worked as a local journalist for several years before moving to politics. She also had a quick wit and generous spirit. It was truly a joy to work with her and an honor to be her friend.”
California Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas hired McMahon three years ago to be the commission’s Federal Program Manager, acting as a liaison with a variety of federal agencies and Congress.
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Douglas said that although McMahon “knew the Coastal Commission, its policies and its work, she was not familiar with the wide range of responsibilities and issues she would need to address in her new capacity. She stepped right in, and through her dedication, strong work ethic, good mind and fine people skills, she was able to catch on remarkably fast.
“In my 30-plus years with the commission,” he added, “I know of no one who joined our coastal family and earned the love and respect of her colleagues more quickly than Anne did.”
Jim Hayes, former journalism professor and writing coach for the Los Angeles Times, taught McMahon when she returned to Cal Poly for a degree in journalism after having raised a family.
“She was smart, shrewd and determined to learn. Annie — as her friends knew her — had a heart as big as the outdoors she loved so well.
She drove herself with passion for good causes and compassion even for those who failed her. She taught me that politics, played by honest people for the right reasons, could be a wonderful game. She ended up teaching me. She was one-of-a-kind.”
Former county supervisor David Blakely hired her as his board aide. “She had been with me through my political career,” the now-retired Blakely said from his home in Santa Margarita.
“First and foremost, she loved her family and right behind that, this little community.”
Toward that end, Mc-Mahon fought the development of the Santa Margarita Ranch, pointing out that almost a dozen environmental problems associated with the project couldn’t be fixed or mitigated.
“She was great to work with,” Blakely said. “You know how you’ve got some employees that you don’t have to worry about? She was one of those. She just knew what to do and did it. She engendered a lot of respect from county staff.”
Neil Havlik, natural resources manager for the city of San Luis Obispo, said McMahon’s love for the county was evident in her efforts with the Nature Conservancy to get an area of the Carrizo Plain designated a national monument.
“I don’t know who got Bill Clinton to sign the designation,” Havlik said, “but it wouldn’t surprise me if her hand were in there.”
When she tried to drum up support for a countywide green belt, she pulled in such disparate groups as the Farm Bureau, Cattlemen’s Association, Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Center.
“She was nothing but a lady,” Havlik said.
She is survived by her husband Peter Kinkade; sons Jono and Ryan; parents Bob and Janice McMahon; three sisters — Noreen, Megan and Michelle; and two brothers, Gerard and Dan.
No services are planned, although an Irish wake will be held at a later date.