‘He will be missed’: Kriss Worthington reflects on 22 years on City Council

Daniela Cervantes/Staff

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As Councilmember Kriss Worthington’s 22-year term on Berkeley City Council comes to a close, those he worked with remember him as a compassionate and “forward-thinking” member of the council.

Worthington served under three mayors — Shirley Dean, Tom Bates and Jesse Arreguín. Out of the many items and initiatives that Worthington advocated for while on the council, he said his most “significant accomplishments” were giving platforms to younger generations and people of color to serve in public office.

Among the many items that Worthington proposed are amendments to the Group Living Accommodations Ordinance and the More Student Housing Now resolution, both of which support increased student housing. Worthington also voted against Berkeley Police Department’s participation in Urban Shield when the issue was raised to the council in June.

According to Worthington, he has appointed about 500 students as commissioners and hired about 1,000 student interns. He also highlighted the fact that many of the students he appointed or hired have gone on to take more positions in city government, including the current mayor.

“I have empowered two entire generations’ worth of young people to prove that they can handle this difficult work, and many of them have gone on to bigger accomplishments than I’ve ever done,” Worthington said. “They’re doing all kinds of incredible things.”

According to Worthington, among the most interesting moments of his time on the council was when Dean was accused of visiting his alma mater, Wilmington College, in 1997 to search for information on Worthington in the school’s newspaper.

“I survived that kind of intense scrutiny and attack,” Worthington said. “All the dirty tricks ended up not kicking me off the council and, … sometimes, it made me more popular to the liberal side of things.”

Worthington’s fellow council members also emphasized his compassion and diligence when working for the city. Councilmember Susan Wengraf said in an email that Worthington “championed the causes of the less fortunate, the disenfranchised, the under-represented,” while Councilmember Sophie Hahn called him “the ultimate man of the people” in an email.

Councilmember Cheryl Davila noted in an email that, while she and Worthington had not had many chances to get to know each other, he always greeted her when she walked near his office because his office door was always open, “literally and otherwise.”

“He will be missed,” Davila said in an email. “I wish him well and thank him for always being personable, kind and for the longevity of service he has provided to the City. Thank you CM Worthington.”

Once he leaves office, Worthington said he hopes to find a public policy job at a nonprofit or in an advocacy group. He said he is looking forward to going on vacations and spending time with his boyfriend, who has inspired him to take vacations and breaks.

While Worthington may be retiring, Wengraf said in an email that she thinks he will still be active in Berkeley. Councilmember-elect Rigel Robinson, who is taking over the District 7 seat after Worthington, agreed that the council will likely hear from him again.

Worthington said he will miss the “constituent services part” of being a council member and will miss working with Arreguín and City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley.

“As a council member, I’m not allowed to express my personal opinions on any quasi-judicial case,” Worthington said. “I will be freed up to be more of an activist because I don’t have to wait until the end of the process to express my opinions. I’ll be able to express my opinions more early and more forcefully.”

Contact Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.