Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters/Assessor Freddie Oakley has announced she will be retiring at the end of this month to take a position in the Clinton campaign, according to a release from the county. Ms. Oakley has served in the position since 2002.
Freddie Oakley began her career with Yolo County in 1987 as Chief Deputy Public Guardian/Public Administrator. Between 1991 and 1999, she held positions with the California Public Utilities Commission, California Legislator Burt Margolin and Helyne Meshar & Associates.
In 1997, she was appointed by Gov. Wilson to fill the seat vacated by Yolo County Supervisor Helen M. Thomson who was elected to the California State Assembly. Oakley served the remainder of that term and then was appointed Chief Deputy Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters in 1999 under Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters Tony Bernhard.
Upon his retirement, Oakley ran for and was elected Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters and has served Yolo County in that capacity since 2002. In 2015, she took on the additional responsibility of Assessor.
“It has been an honor and a joy to work for and with the people of Yolo County since 1987,” said Freddie Oakley. “When I left for a few years to work at the state level, I was amazed at how much I missed the county, and was thrilled when I had an opportunity to return. All of the many staff that I have worked with here have been terrific colleagues. I know that I am leaving these departments in the hands of capable, dedicated workers who know their jobs perfectly and do them with enthusiasm.”
Ms. Oakley is probably best known for her advocacy for same-sex marriage. On Valentine’s Day in 2007, she made regional headlines by issuing couples with a “Certificate of Inequality.”
“I issue this Certificate of Inequality to you,” the document read in part, “Because your choice of marriage partner displeases some people whose displeasure is, apparently, more important than principles of equality.”
“This is my fifth year as county clerk and the fifth year in which I will be refusing marriage licenses to people of the same gender,” Ms. Oakley said at the time. “It gets harder every year.”
“I had already been county clerk for a number of years and I took it upon myself to be the person who addresses folks who came to demonstrate on Valentine’s Day,” Freddie Oakley told the Vanguard in 2013 after same-sex marital rights were restored, noting that most county clerks would simply hide away in their offices rather than face the protesters.
Because she was going to be the person to say no, she wanted to demonstrate to the best of her ability that she respected the right for everyone, regardless of gender, to marry the person of their choosing.
So she created what she called a “Certificate of Inequality,” which would be issued to any same-sex couple seeking to get married on February 14, 2007.
In retrospect, she said, “Strangely I thought… that if it had a chance of offending anyone it would offend gay couples. I was afraid that they would think that I was chastising them for being unequal.”
For her efforts she was demonstrated and protested against. The downstairs section by the County Clerk’s Office was jammed with a long line of people waiting to get their certificates. Outside was a modest group of people who had come to protest this action by Ms. Oakley. Perhaps 40-50 people carried signs saying, “Everyone has an equal right to Marriage, Just follow the rules.”
Times changed fast.
“I would have to say that when I joined the protest in 2007, I thought we were in for a much longer haul,” she said. “I thought it would be a lot more time necessary for this work.”
“It’s astonishing to me how fast the sort of tide of culture has changed to accept marriage equality,” she said. She gives huge credit to individuals and organizations that have helped to make this happen.
“In a way it boils down to respect for the law,” she said. “Because folks have really gone through the process available to any American or group of Americans who want to challenge the status quo. They have used every peaceful reasonable means.”
“I did not think we’d see a payoff this soon, but I really give all of the credit in the world to all of the folks who did not give up the fight,” Ms. Oakley added.
Freddie Oakley recalled, “I got calls from people all over the United States who wanted to tell me I was going to hell.”
“I got requests from all over the world from people who wanted a certificate of inequality,” she added. “I sent them to everyone who asked for them. I bought stamps with my own money, I bought copy paper with my own money. I kept the receipts to demonstrate that everything had been done on my own expense.”
Now it’s Freddie Oakley’s time to take her next step. Along with a position with the Clinton campaign, Ms. Oakley said in the press release, “I look forward to having time to spend with my husband of nearly 50 years who is now an emeritus professor and actually has time to spend with me.”
“For almost three decades, in a variety of capacities, Freddie Oakley has served the people of Yolo County,” said Yolo County Board of Supervisors Chair Matt Rexroad. “She is impassioned about what she’s done and we honor her for her amazing public service.”
The Board of Supervisors is charged with filling the vacated seat of Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters/Assessor. An interim will likely be named during the December 15 Board of Supervisors meeting and a process evaluated for making an appointment to fill the remaining three years of the four-year term.
—David M. Greenwald reporting