District 7 City Councilmember Kriss Worthington announced Thursday that he will not be seeking re-election in November and that he has instead endorsed recent campus graduate Rigel Robinson for his council seat.
Worthington, who has served on Berkeley City Council for 22 years, advocated for increased student housing, police reform, the LGBTQ+ community, people of color in government and various other items. He said this year felt like the right time to step down and support one of his college-level interns or commissioners in their campaign for his seat.
After careful consideration, he said he believes Robinson would be “the right person” to endorse at this time.
“He cares about low-income and middle-class student housing and has been an activist for students at the (UC) regents and in the state of California, on some of the same issues I work on,” Worthington said.
Worthington added that he hopes Robinson will finish some of the projects he started, such as his disability initiatives and housing projects. He also said Robinson’s experience working for a diverse range of people in the ASUC has connected him to a greater diversity of political opportunities.
Varsha Sarveshwar, a campus junior and Robinson’s campaign manager, said Robinson is “a great listener” and is willing to consider all perspectives of an issue, making him an effective advocate for students.
“Worthington has been a reliable ally to students over his long career on the council, and I’m so grateful to have his support!” Robinson said in an email. “It’s on us now to carry on his legacy of fighting to make sure students have a seat at the table and advocating for progressive public policy.”
One of Worthington’s notable accomplishments was his advocacy for police reform, according to fellow Councilmember Kate Harrison. She said the council’s coming vote on amendments to the Police Review Commission charter is largely due to his past work. Harrison added that Worthington’s departure from City Council “will be a huge loss.”
During his time on the council, Worthington said he appointed the most Asian American, Latinx and Black staffers. He said “all politicians should appoint people from every ethnic group” and that he proved people of color are interested in government work by publicizing job opportunities.
Worthington has also hired more than 900 student interns and more than 400 student commissioners, which he considers one of his “foremost accomplishments.” He added that many of the students he worked with went on to hold “significant community positions,” such as Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín.
“I’m sad that Kriss is (retiring) from the City Council,” Arreguín said. “Many policies Kriss has introduced have really improved people’s lives in this community.”
Worthington said he feels comfortable leaving the council at this time in part because of the current leadership of Arreguín and City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley. He said Arreguín keeps a line of communication open with City Council, which allows for a more inclusive consideration of ideas, and that the management within the government is “much more efficient than it used to be.”
After the election in November, Worthington said he plans to take a two-week vacation and then find work at a nonprofit organization. He added that serving on City Council allowed him to explore his interests in a variety of subjects, which he hopes he can continue to cultivate in his next line of work.
“It’s been an exciting adventure for 22 years,” Worthington said. “Being a City Council member is the most intellectually stimulating job I’ve ever had.”