Remembering Nancy Pyle as a tenacious San Jose politician with style

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan says former councilmember was “a fierce advocate who made her community a better place”

Nancy Pyle photo

San Jose City Councilmember Nancy Pyle, photographed in 2012, represented city city’s 10th district from 2005-2013. Pyle died July 14, 2023 at age 85. (Jacqueline Ramseyer/Silicon Valley Community Newspapers)

Sal PizarroBy SAL PIZARRO | spizarro@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group
PUBLISHED: July 18, 2023 at 3:35 p.m. | UPDATED: July 19, 2023 at 7:28 a.m.

 

When you envision former San Jose City Councilmember Nancy Pyle, who died last Friday at age 85, you may immediately think of the stylish outfits that earned her a reputation as the best-dressed member of the council during her tenure from 2005 to 2013. But to only remember her that way would be a disservice to the tenacity she showed over decades of service.

She may have dressed to the nines, but Pyle fought like Rocky Balboa.

It’s easy to forget that the former elementary school teacher, who had a 25-year career mostly in the San Jose Unified School District, twice ran unsuccessfully for the Almaden Valley seat, losing to Pat Dando in 1995 and 2000. She finally broke through on her third attempt in 2004 when the popular Dando was termed out. But even then she had to overcome a 12-point advantage in the primary by her opponent, Rich De La Rosa, who was endorsed by Dando.

While her time in office was one of the city’s most economically challenging, Pyle continued to fight — pushing for more businesses including Whole Foods Market to open in the Almaden/Blossom Hill area and helping to save dozens of trees PG&E had planned to take out of T.J. Martin and Jeffrey Fontana parks. Amid massive city budget cuts in 2010, she catalyzed businesses, individuals and civic organizations to contribute $35,000 to keep a summer swim program alive at Almaden Lake Park. She got the city to put in the other $35,000 needed, drawing on her own office budget for payroll and supplies.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan, who was one of her successors in District 10, said Pyle served San Jose with distinction as a teacher and a councilmember — “a fierce advocate who made her community a better place.”

“Her legacy lives on in the sports fields she expanded, the library hours she extended and the open spaces she prioritized,” he said.

Assistant City Manager Lee Wilcox served as Pyle’s chief of staff when she was a councilmember and said she was beloved by those who worked closest with her. “Her compassion and advocacy for children throughout her career as a teacher, school board member and city councilmember made her loved by many and her commitment to collaboration made her an incredible leader for our community,” he said. “Nancy was a friend and mentor and I will miss her guidance, humor and grace.”

Nancy Halloran was raised on a farm near Syracuse, N.Y., put herself through college and arrived in the Bay Area in 1960. After she and her first husband divorced in 1969, she was a single, working mom of two and began supplementing her teaching salary by selling real estate. She met her second husband, engineer Roger Pyle, through a video-dating service and she’s survived by him and her two children. After her retirement from teaching in 1996, she served eight years on the San Jose Evergreen Community College District board of trustees. [Editor’s note: Read below for more on Nancy Pyle’s legacy in the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District.]

A true-blue Democrat, Pyle — who had a near-fatal heart attack in 2015 and suffered from dementia in recent years — continued being politically active in retirement and organized a Democratic Club at the Villages, where she lived.

“She believed in San Jose and in our ability to work together, to lift each other up and build a stronger community,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who served alongside Pyle on the city council. “She will be missed.”

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(This section about SJECCD is excerpted from “Nancy Pyle Obituary” published by Mercury News from Aug. 6 to August 9, 2023.)

“Never one to remain idle, Nancy leveraged her lobbyist experience to start a second career in political service to the community. In 1996, she ran for the job of San Jose Evergreen Community College District (SJECCD) Trustee, where she served eight years. During her tenure, she was instrumental in developing funding through a Bond Measure and other means. One revenue source included commercial development of an unused corner of Evergreen Valley College. The SJECCD kept ownership of the land, which resulted in a long-term revenue stream, at no cost to taxpayers. This deal, plus other revenues she helped coordinate, directly enabled San Jose City College to build a new library and refresh their track/football field. Evergreen Community College was able to build a new nurse training facility.”

This newsletter editor’s final thoughts:
Nancy Pyle’s legacy in our college district is forever visible in our rebuilt campuses and tangible in our re-energized curriculum. Thank you for caring so much, Nancy.