Former MP Gene Mullin – a dedicated educator and accomplished lawmaker whose family legacy continues to shape the local political landscape – has died. He was 83 years old.
The former state official, mayor of South San Francisco and local teacher, who was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, died at his home in South San Francisco on Monday, April 5.
Congregation Speaker Tem Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, paid tribute to the memory of his father in a prepared statement.
“His civic heritage lives on through the lives of his legions of students and his children and grandchildren,” said Kevin Mullin. “He was our proverbial North Star and we will never be the same again when he’s gone.”
US Representative Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, reflected on Gene Mullin’s civil service career and friendship.
“Gene was a man whose generous heart was always overflowing, whose ethics resembled a theologian, and whose mind was like Sherlock Holmes, always investigating and always asking difficult questions about what is in the best interests of the public,” she said in an e- Mail.
Gene Mullin introduced himself to his local community as a government teacher in the South San Francisco Unified School District, a role he held for 32 years.
He also coached basketball, helped lead his district’s teachers’ union, and was named San Mateo County Teacher of the Year in 1991.
Hoping to inspire his students to take greater interest in their hometown, Gene Mullin accepted an appointment to the South San Francisco Planning Commission in 1972.
He served as commissioner when South San Francisco welcomed Genentech, which has since changed the city and region and established South City as the birthplace of biotechnology.
From 1995 to 2002 he was a member of the South San Francisco City Council and twice mayor. He then turned his attention to state legislation and ran for the assembly that represented the 19th district.
In the assembly race, Gene Mullin overtook Millbrae councilor Gina Papan despite her father Lou Papan being the incumbent. Gene Mullin eventually served three terms before stepping down in 2008. While in Sacramento, he chaired the congregation’s education and housing committees.
“As a legislator, he received high praise and wrote the gospel on educational reform during his years in the state assembly,” Speier said.
Gene Mullin has built a reputation for remarkable consistency in the congregation, being the only member who never missed a committee vote in his six years in office and has cast approximately 11,000 votes.
His colleagues referred to him as “Cal Ripken of the Legislature” and recalled the shortstop of Baltimore Orioles, who broke Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,131 consecutive games.
Among the issues that excited him most as a legislator was the drive to lower the voting age in order to improve youth engagement in political affairs.
Although Gene Mullin struggled to get the issue to the vote, Kevin Mullin took up the fight and successfully brought it to the electorate through ACA 4 in 2020 – although he was ultimately defeated.
Other legislative priorities included affordable housing, expanding childcare and advocacy for the life science industry. He also taught summer programs for Sacramento State University, authored books on local government, and produced educational videos.
His public service expanded to include the nonprofit sector as Gene Mullin served on the board of directors for local organizations such as the San Mateo County Historical Society, HIP Housing, the South San Francisco Library Foundation, BayBio, and the Seton Medical Center.
The South San Francisco City Council issued a statement honoring the death of a local icon and paid special attention to the encouragement it showed local youth to get involved in their community.
“His enthusiasm to represent his city and then our district was inspiring. In South San Francisco, a city he loved, we were fortunate enough to consider him our own, ”the statement said.
A black wreath was erected in his honor in South San Francisco City Hall.
The services will be private, but contributions to the memory of Gene Mullin can be made through the San Francisco Library Foundation to the South San Francisco Community Learning Center.