|One of the few occasions when I was attempting to surreptitiously keep an eye on former Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney's public dealings, otherwise known as a photo bomb. PHOTO/Natalia Aldana|
Michael Sweeney ended three non-
consecutive terms as Hayward's mayor
As a political reporter, it’s not often that I can reveal what I really think about the people I chronicle every day, but upon Sweeney’s retirement this week, I can suspend the precepts of the Fifth Estate. I think the man who often wore a simple dress shirt and khakis to every public appearance—rolled up sleeves, of course—was an honest politician. There was a very paternal feel to Sweeney’s tenure in office. Sometimes he even appeared to be giving his council colleagues that look only a parent can convey to their children. Other times, like when he would jokingly chide now-former Councilmember Mark Salinas to quit yapping, he was also imparting friendly advice to be more concise in your thoughts. Sweeney didn’t say much, therefore, when he did, people listened.
Sweeney worst act in office, as an
A's fan, may have been once posing
with the Giants World Series trophies.
That being said, his legacy in Hayward is not entire clear. The city has long struggled to acclimate itself to its post-industrial economy and the Great Recession did nothing but exacerbate its dwindling revenue base. However, it may be better to view Sweeney’s Hayward through a different lens. What would the city look like today if it didn’t have his leadership to keep the near-sinking ship afloat during the worst of times? Let’s be frank, the lack of quality among political leaders in Hayward is troublesome and its bench is quite thin. It’s scary to think what the city would look like today if it didn’t have someone like Sweeney who could draw up his perspective as the area’s former assemblyman and the perception he was no longer beholden to Sacramento, labor unions or any other special interest group other than the people of Hayward.
Make no mistake, Sweeney’s departure will be immediately evident on many levels and it will be interesting to see if the new mayor, Barbara Halliday, can keep the holes in Hayward plugged in the short-term. I will honestly miss the soothing cadence of the council meetings Sweeney's leadership imparted and on a practical note, there is this: Doesn't everybody like the co-worker who makes your job easier? Michael Sweeney's commitment to good government was impeccable. For a guy like me, there was never any need to keep watch on him.