Politics & Government

Madera Co. official deemed 'a statesman'

Chowchilla City Council Member Alfred "Al" Ginsburg won 12 straight elections to non-partisan public offices from 1948 to 2004, including six terms on the Madera County Board of Supervisors, building a reputation of protecting taxpayers' money while dealing with booming growth.

Mr. Ginsburg, 87, an icon in Madera County politics, died Monday night in Chowchilla. He was serving his sixth term on the City Council.

"He was on the City Council when I married him 57 years ago," his wife, Patricia, recalled Tuesday. "I was glad he was in [politics]. We both cared about community things. ... He was known as someone who didn't like to see money wasted."

Son Michael, of Fresno, said Tuesday that Mr. Ginsburg retained his zest for active politics until a heart attack about a month ago.

After winning re-election to the City Council by five votes in 2004 at age 84 -- his closest ever election win -- Mr. Ginsburg said he didn't think he would be running for anything again.

"So, I'd hate to have to quit a loser," Mr. Ginsburg said at the time.

Mr. Ginsburg was born in Tulare in February 1920, moved with his family to Chowchilla as a fifth-grader and lived the rest of his life in the growing Madera County city. He was a Chowchilla High School graduate and at age 17 started at Fresno State College, where he majored in social studies, economics and chemistry.

After college, he worked on the family farm and later started a shoe business in downtown Chowchilla. He later gave up the shoe business and went into farming cotton, grain and potatoes for a couple of years.

His first elective office was to the Chowchilla City Council in 1948. He wanted the city to have a drainage plan.

He thought the city could do a better job of building and maintaining streets. For 16 years, he was a mainstay on the council.

Then he stepped down, ran for and was elected to the Chowchilla High School board, a post he held for 10 years.

He won a seat on the Madera County Board of Supervisors in 1974 and remained on the county's top governing unit until he voluntarily retired in 1998 at the end of his sixth term.

Not content with remaining on the sidelines of 21st century politics, Mr. Ginsburg won election to the Chowchilla City Council, where he had started his political career in 1948.

"I've never felt I was going to get on a board or a council and make all kinds of improvements and change things upside down," Mr. Ginsburg said after his election victory in 2000. "I've always felt that maybe I could be helpful along the way."

On Tuesday, Mr. Ginsburg was remembered at the weekly Madera County Board of Supervisors meeting. Flags in Madera County were ordered to be flown at half-staff at all county buildings.

"Al was not a politician," said Chowchilla City Council Member Justin White. "He was a statesman. ... The community as a whole is saddened by his loss."

At age 28, White is the youngest member of the Chowchilla City Council. White noted that Mr. Ginsburg had been in public service more than twice as long as White has been alive.

Funeral arrangements are pending.