James (Jim) Kennedy, long-time pillar, leader, and mentor in the Yuba-Sutter community, passed away at the age of 71 at The Fountains in Yuba City on Feb 3, 2018 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. His loving wife Wendy and sons Josh and Jake were at his side. In addition he leaves behind Lauren Hull Snowden (Phil), Christopher Hull, and six grandchildren: Taylla, Matthew, Shelby, Andrew, Luke, and Joey as well as nephew Mike and niece Jill. Jim was born in Watsonville, California, one of two sons to James and Dorothy Kennedy. He is proceeded in death by his older brother Robert, and by granddaughter Kylie.
Jim was a fiercely devoted husband, father, and grandfather who could never pass up a game of tummy pokey-pokey when one of the grandkids zeroed in for a hug. Additionally, all efforts at childhood artwork were proudly displayed on his bulletin board, window, ceiling, bathroom mirror, etc. While afraid of little in life, he met his match facing a brisk Scottish wind while wearing a kilt of the Kennedy tartan prior to their wedding along the west coast of Scotland. He rapidly developed an appreciation for the immediate benefits of a tot of Scotland’s national drink. He and Wendy were fortunate to have traveled to New Zealand, Australia, Alaska, Ireland, and Scotland as well as many places stateside. Perhaps his favorite of all was simply the front porch at their home in the foothills of Browns Valley, watching the sunset over the Sutter Buttes while enjoying a glass of wine with friends.
Jim graduated from Watsonville High School in 1964, going on to earn business degrees from Cabrillo College in 1966 and San Jose State University in 1968. Involved in municipal and county government since his college graduation, Jim started his career in the Auditor-Appraiser’s office of Shasta County, moving on to similar positions in San Benito and Siskiyou Counties before ultimately landing at the Yuba County Treasurer & Tax Collector’s (TTC) office in 1979. Starting as assistant to Clifford Irish, he was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to succeed Cliff as Treasurer-Tax Collector in 1980, was elected to the position in 1982, and served in that position his until retirement in December 2009.
During his tenure as the Yuba County Treasurer, Jim was a force in navigating Yuba County and other municipalities through some of the most pressing financial matters in the state’s history. He had the job of implementing California Prop 13, fought for Yuba’s many water rights issues, guiding the county through multiple bond issues, and maintaining its financial solvency and credit rating. He was especially instrumental at the local and state level in guiding many counties through the aftermath of the Orange County public bankruptcy in 1994. He worked thousands of hours with other county treasurers and state legislators to maintain solvency of numerous public investment portfolios across the state. He and a handful of County employees were the core of emergency services during the 1986 floods, and Jim was a force in long-term levee improvement plans for our area. On a lighter note, many in the community will forever remember getting the green envelope from his office to pay their annual property taxes. For his long and outstanding services in public finance, Jim served as the President of the California Association of County Treasurer-Tax Collectors in 1987-1998, and was honored as Person of the Year by that association in 1998. He was also honored with the Victor E. Martinelli Award in 1997 as the Outstanding County Treasurer in the United States, for which only one other Californian has been so awarded.
While Jim’s professional accomplishments alone are notable, it was his volunteer and leadership work across the Yuba-Sutter that defines his legacy. While his sons were young, he coached Little League Baseball and in the Yuba-Sutter Youth Soccer League. Both he and Henry Reimers were the driving factor in starting the soccer program at Marysville HS, where Jim helped coach the first two years until turning the reins over to a full-time coach. He served with the Yuba-Sutter United Way, ultimately being honored with its prestigious Pedro Award. He was a long-time member and past chairperson of the board for Sierra Central Credit Union, where his visionary work enabled SCCU to become one of the finest community-based credit unions in the USA. He was a past board member and chairperson of the Rideout Hospital Board of Directors, as well as Peachtree Clinic. Late in his career he was elected to the Yuba College Board of Trustees. His professional volunteer service is almost too long to list, but the highlights demonstrate his lasting impact to our community.
Jim was cared for by the staff at The Fountains for the final two years of his illness. As the end approached it was with great respect, sadness and obvious love that they helped carry him through his final journey. The kindness and generosity of spirit they showed will always be remembered with great thankfulness. During his last week many friends gathered in his room to share stories, to hold his hand and to tell Jim how much he had influenced their lives.
At his request there will be no funeral services. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donating in his name to the Yuba-Sutter Food Bank, Rideout Health Foundation, the Parkinson’s Foundation, or the Stanford Movement Disorders Center. Jim’s family will host a celebration of all things Jim at Peachtree Country Club later this spring.