Get a Grip logo Get a Grip on Growth

Sierra Club logo Get a Grip on Growth is pleased to announce that The Napa Group of the Sierra Club will present the 2003 Earl Thollander Award to Get a Grip co-founder Ginny Simms

Award Dinner

Sunday, April 27, 2003
Napa Elks Lodge
2840 Soscol Avenue
5:30 - 9:00 pm

The event will include a reception,
no host cocktails, live and silent auctions,
dinner and any tribute or reminiscence
about Ginny that you would like to share.
Call (707) 258-8719 for info.

Who is Ginny Simms?

Photo of Ginny Simms    Ginny & Warren and their two children moved to Napa in 1955. Their home was in Alta Heights. Ginny was surprised to learn that their water bills were bigger than most, since they did not live in the City! However, the good side of that became evident when in 1956 their street was re-paved, because it was an election year for their County Supervisor, according to the neighbors. Four years later, Ginny was ready for the Election Year crew with a pitcher of lemonade, and the Simms' driveway entrance got re-paved. Her introduction to local government had begun.

Ginny's first forays into local volunteering were with AAUW and Community Projects. New Board members in those days got drafted to put on Teas. Ginny chaired a Table Setting Tea for Community Projects, at which her own table decorations wilted half-way through the event, and an AAUW Tea honoring Jessamyn West, during which she scandalized the women by asking the wrong Mrs. Johnson to pour tea! Clearly, these lady-like activities were a poor fit.

Better activities were to come: in 1958 she was appointed to a Citizens Committee for the College Preparatory Student, and in 1967 she served a year as Secretary of the County Grand Jury. Both of these activities brought her a lifelong friend, Julian Weidler. Meanwhile, school bond elections, water and sewer bonds, and supporting Ralph Trower and Ralph Bolin for City Council led to a term on the City Planning Commission by 1968.

But something changed along the way. Ginny read "Silent Spring," spoke out and worked for the Ag Preserve, went to a Stanford seminar on The Environment, watched in horror as the Planning Commission approved 600 houses in one night, and met Harold Kelly. That did it!

Fuller Park became the seat of Ginny's environmental activism. Bag lunches in hand, Jane Smith, Ellen Buehler, Rene di Rosa, John Tuteur, Sandy and Bob White, Dave Kelly, Nan Vaaler, Ron Cliff, and Fred Monhoff created Napans Opposing Wastelands, Inc. They began to comment on both County and City growth decisions. They fondly remember the time they delayed approval of an ultra-modern County center atop a ten foot wall when Architect Monhoff referred to it as "the box the building came in," and Dave Kelly mentioned to Henry Wigger that this wall "might have a chilling effect on surrounding businesses". The most visible contribution of this group is Napa's first Bike Trail _ running from Trower Avenue to Yountville along the west frontage road.

In 1972, after John Tuteur introduced Ginny to Dorothy Erskine, Ginny ran for the County Board of Supervisors and became the first woman elected to the board The County began a new General Plan, with the theme that urban activities belong in cities. Thus ended the "one-acre one-house" General Plan of the County, as well as the County policy of approving urban subdivisions around all the edges of the City. With the addition of Sam Chapman and Dowell Martz in 1978, the new plan was adopted.

Ginny also worked hard on: Measure J to protect agricultural zoning; Measures W & X to prevent urban sprawl south of Napa; preserving Stanly Ranch for agriculture; increasing resource protection for agriculture; requiring higher housing densities for workforce housing; preventing unreasonable development at Aetna Springs; passage of various school bond issues; and numerous committees struggling to elect good city and county leaders_a constant challenge.

Ginny has served as a Founding Board Member of Aldea, the Napa College Foundation, the Napa Valley Stanford Club, the Napa Valley Foundation, and Get a Grip on Growth. Along the way she has also been a Board member of Community Projects, AAUW, several PTAs, the Republican Central Committee, the Napa County Land Trust, and the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, where she chaired the Finance and the Transportation Committees.

Ginny's "day jobs" have included substitute and home teaching, Executive Director of the youth home at Aldea, and operating a small business serving seniors.

Finally, Ginny has had the support and love of her husband Warren, her children Wendy (and Bill) and Doug (and Linda), and the grandchildren, Chris, Clare, Gregg, Dillon and Allie.

Last Year's Winner

Last year's winner of the Earl Thollander Award was Harold Kelly, also a co-founder of Get a Grip on Growth and a current member of our Steering Committee. Harold was involved in the founding of Napa County Landmarks and the Napa County Land Trust, and a member of the City of Napa's City Council and Planning Commission. He has been a community activist for three decades, starting as chair of the Neighborhood Association of Browns Valley Residents.
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