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Alumni & FriendsHelen Fisicaro, the mayor of Colma, pauses outside City Hall to point to a plaque bearing her town's motto.Photo by Gino de Grandis

No Rest for Mayor of Colma

After a day's work at PG&E, where she heads an energy efficiency rebate program, Helen Fisicaro (B.S., '94) has saved some energy of her own. She needs it to fulfill the duties of a second job: mayor of Colma, a two square-mile town between Daly City and South San Francisco.

"Colma is nice and small," Fisicaro says. "You get to know everyone." In the evenings, she returns calls and e-mails from her constituents and meets with staff. Honoring local children for making good grades or octogenarians on their birthdays are some of the highlights of City Council meetings. The challenges? "You get yelled at and can't make everyone happy."

Colma is best known as "the city of souls," souls including those of Joe DiMaggio and Wyatt Earp. In 1912, a San Francisco ordinance moved all existing cemeteries from city limits -- largely to protect prime real estate -- to neighboring Colma. Today, minus occasional traffic issues related to funerals, Colma's 17 cemeteries rarely figure into Fisicaro's job. She's focused on the town's 1,575 living residents. Fisicaro, who just entered her fourth term as mayor, has helped bring residents a historical museum, a new police station and refurbished parks.

Reno Taini (M.A., '78), a member of Colma's volunteer fire department, says the mayor's accessibility and ability to listen have earned her the respect of the community. "In Colma, a lot of people come and go [laughs], but Helen has stuck around. She has tremendous empathy."

Fisicaro is well-known for her volunteer work at a number of nonprofits. "I couldn't begin to tell you how many there are -- it gets a little ridiculous," says Fro Vallerga, Colma's vice mayor. "Helen is very involved." Her contributions have earned her a spot in the San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame and awards from PG&E and the Colma/Daly City Chamber.

The mayor's schedule is not unlike the one she kept while she pursued a double degree in business administration and human resource management. "My teachers were wonderful, very supportive of those who worked full-time," Fisicaro says. She took classes for seven-and-a-half years while she worked at PG&E and raised two children with husband Dennis, a Colma native who prompted Fisicaro's move from her native San Francisco 30 years ago. Their daughter Regina is a student at SF State.

Management Professor John Sullivan says, "Helen was one of my star students who always spoke her mind. An obvious leader." He cites as examples politicians Willie Brown (B.A., '55) and John Burton (B.A., '54) and adds, "Helen is further proof that San Francisco State is a great training ground. With talent and ambition, our graduates can do anything."


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Last modified January 2, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs and Publications