State of the Community Dinner

Kathy Sands embodies ‘a love for a community’

Former mayor has shaped city, molded lives
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
-A +A

Auburn State of the Community Dinner

When: 7 tonight

Where: The Ridge event center, 2020 Golf Course Road, North Auburn

Tickets: Reserve seats at (530) 885-5616

Kathy Sands says she’s one of the few recipients of the Vernon Gould McCann Award who actually knew its namesake.

Her longtime colleague and friend Bob Haydon fondly remembers him, too, and Haydon said Sands was cut from the same cloth as McCann, whom many thought of as “Mr. Auburn.”

Sands will receive the award named after the longtime Auburn Journal employee tonight at the State of the Community Dinner. It is given annually to a person who dedicates their time and efforts to making Auburn a better place, something Sands and McCann embodied, Haydon said.

Sands served two terms as mayor during her eight years on the Auburn City Council beginning in 1996 and dedicated a good portion of her life to community involvement, serving on various committees and working with nonprofits.

“When I make a commitment to something, I really stick with it and always do the best job I can,” she said.

In a civic career filled with achievements, she said receiving the McCann Award ranks among her proudest. Perhaps it’s fitting that her only memory of their lives crossing paths is one of a giving nature.

McCann would walk by Placer Savings and Loan Association, where Sands and Haydon would work together for the better part of four decades, every day, delivering the paper once a week. He always smiled, always waved, Haydon said.

He always knew what was going on in Auburn, Sands said. Apparently, he knew her fondness for Heath candy bars, which she would routinely purchase at the local drug store in her late teens. One day, he bought one for her.

She can’t remember exactly why he did it, but it has stuck with her to this day.

 “He would not go by without a smile on his face and a kind word, and she epitomizes that,” said Haydon, President and CEO of Community 1st Bank who graduated from Placer High School a year after Sands did in 1960. “It was kind of the way we grew up, respecting the community and a love for a community that we could see in the twinkle of his eye, that’s what we believed in and she epitomized that.

“And that’s got to come from someplace, and I’m sure that seeing him and being a part of his life at that time in our impressionable years was impressionable upon her.”

Sands worked for Placer Savings and Loan for 40 years before retiring in 2000 in the midst of her local political career. She credits the bank’s founder, Paul Clairborne Sr., as having encouraged her to become more involved in the community.

Annabell McCord, a former McCann Award winner herself, ushered Sands through her civic life, she said. McCord, who died at 93 in June 2012, nominated Sands for the 2012 McCann Award.

“Annabell McCord was such a legend, such a mentor to me,” Sands said. “I was asked to be president of the Sutter Auburn Faith Community Hospital Foundation, and she said, ‘Oh Kathy, we have to talk about parliamentary procedure,’ and she helped me so I was comfortable in managing a meeting.”

Then, McCord appointed her to the Planning Commission, which she would become chair of soon after. Then, it was time for her to run for City Council, McCord would tell her. Sands would be the top vote-getter both times.

City Councilwoman Bridget Powers said Sands has played an influential role in her life as an elected official, teaching her the importance of communications and educating herself on the issues.

Sands also had a knack for spreading the spirit of getting involved, Powers said.

“One thing that she has done which I admire so much is when someone has a cause … she says, ‘You have to be a part of this,’” she said. “You have to be a part of what you want your solution to be. … You need to join me and not just tell me. And she’s a great leader in that way.”

Sands’ work in the community can be seen all over; one of her favorite accomplishments is approving the Holiday Inn/In-N-Out project as part of the Planning Commission. That passed without a hitch. Then there was the Auburn Municipal Airport, one of the greater challenges of her career, she said.

“The airport was a tremendous controversial issue when I was on it,” Sands said. “It was kind of run by the pilots at the time, which maybe wasn’t a real bad thing, but we needed to make some changes, and we did.”

Her work in the community has continued well beyond her exit from council chambers. In 2009, Assemblyman Ted Gaines recognized her as California’s 4th District Woman of the Year.

Currently, Sands’ involvement includes serving as a lifetime ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce, professional member of the Assistance League, member of the Soroptimists, Caring Hearts Society, Philanthropic Educational Organization, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital Community Foundation and Leadership Auburn.

Her pet project is renovating the State Threatre into the Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center. She is an executive board member of the APPAC.

“It’s 130 seats right now and it’s split into two theatres right now, but we’re going to take down the wall and we’re working on a big fundraising challenge right now,” Sands said. “We’ve gotten some good grants and we need to raise some more money. So, that’s really my passion right now.”


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews