City clerk Deanna Despain found dead in Oakland

Update 2:35 p.m. The Associated Press is reporting that Deanna Despain’s death was apparently because of a fall down a staircase in her home. She was found by her husband. There were no signs of foul play.

Deanna Despain, Berkeley’s city clerk, was found dead in her home on the 4100 block of Lyman Road in Oakland at 2 a.m. on Saturday morning. The Oakland police are treating the death as suspicious.

The coroner’s office is not yet releasing any information about the death, referring enquiries to the Oakland Police Department.

Despain became acting city clerk in June, 2008, with the retirement of Pamyla Means. She was appointed city clerk in May 2009. She had worked for the city for over 10 years. The birth of her child, on March 22 last year, was applauded at that evening’s City Council meeting.

“Deanna was super smart, she was really on top of things,” said Mark Rhoades, who worked with Despain when he was in the city’s planning department. “She cared a lot about the city.”

In the city offices today, word about Despain’s death spread without any official news. City staff said they were working with Despain’s family on an announcement, pending official word from the OPD.

Berkeleyside is awaiting information from the OPD and will provide updates as details emerge.

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  • A tremendous loss for all of us in Berkeley. We came to depend on the professional service she delivered and her ever-cheery disposition. My deepest condolences are with her family, her young child, and the many friends  that she came to cultivate. 

  • Anonymous

    Completely sad and unreal.

  • Anonymous

    Okay, so what was it that she had threatened to blow the whistle on?

  • Guest


  • George Beier, Jr.

    Deanna was always incredibly kind and helpful to me.  Her professionalism and “can do” attitude permeated all of her work and that of her staff.   And of course the road ahead for her newborn just got impossibly more difficult.  I’ll never understand why bad things happen to good people.    Rest in peace, Deanna.

  • Robleroad

    I am shocked and heartbroken. My thoughts and prayers are with her family. RIP

  • Stephen Wollmer

    I am so sad to lose a valued public servant who took her work seriously but never failed to maintain a cheerful demeanor.  She led a group of skilled staff people who kept the City moving along into modern practices to make the City’s business accessible and transparent.  She will be missed.

    steve wollmer

  • Fingerart

    Please rest in peace Deanna. You were such a light. I am so glad I had the blessings to know you.  My prayers go out to your family.

  • T Edwards

    You will never be forgotten my precious friend.