Former North Coast state Sen. Pat Wiggins died early Thursday after a long illness, and tributes poured in from friends and public officials for the Democrat who overcame a hearing disability during a 14-year career in politics.
Wiggins, who also served on the Santa Rosa City Council and in the state Assembly, was 73. She died at an assisted living facility in Forestville.
“Pat lived life to the fullest,” said Guy Conner of Santa Rosa, Wiggins’ husband of 30 years. “As a parent, friend and public servant, Pat’s considerable talents and vivacious personality leave the people she touched far better off.”
Pat Wiggins (1940-2013)
Pat Wiggins applauds while watching President-elect Barack Obama's victory speech at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa in 2008. (PD FILE, 2008)
State Sen. Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, participates in a joint hearing of the Senate Natural Resources and Water committees at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2009. (PD FILE, 2009)
State Sen. Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, participates in a joint hearing of the Senate Natural Resources and Water committees at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday Aug. 18, 2009. (PD FILE, 2009)
State Sen. Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, walks back to a joint hearing of the Senate Natural Resources and Water committees, with her chief of staff Sean MacNeil at the State Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday Aug. 18, 2009. (PD FILE, 2009)
Sen. Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, listens to Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento as he asked for votes from members that were absent as they worked on bill in 2010. (PD FILE, 2010 )
Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, center, and State Sen. Pat Wiggins greet each other outside of the State Capitol in Sacramento on Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. (PD FILE, 2008)
State Sen. Pat Wiggins, left, talks with Susan Boyd, a consultant to the Senate Select Committee on California's wine industry in Sacramento in 2008. (PD FILE, 2008)
(from L to R) Zully Amaya, Tom Blake, Sen. Pat Wiggins and Rue Furch at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Sonoma County 2008 scholarship awards gala. (PD FILE, 2008)
State Sen. Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa in 2006. (COURTESY PHOTO )
Pat Wiggins walks through landscaping to the sidewalk on Yulupa Avenue after retrieving belongings from her vehicle after a 2004 crash. (PD FILE, 2004 )
Assemblywoman Patty Berg, left, D-Eureka, and Assemblywoman Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, talk things over during a 2003 legislative session in Sacramento (PD FILE, 2003)
Assemblywoman Pat Wiggins votes on a budget proposal in Sacramento in 2003. (PD FILE, 2003)
David Gabill, center, leads a group of housing advocates in a discussion about pending legislation with Pat Wiggins, left, at her Santa Rosa office in the State Building in 2003. (PD FILE, 2003 )
Assemblywoman Patty Berg, left, D-Eureka, and veteran Assemblywoman Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, look over the floor of the Assembly before the special session in Sacramento in 2002. (PD FILE, 2002 )
Assemblywoman Pat Wiggins, left, receives help with her headset from legislative director Dan Flynn, as committee secretary Dixie Petty and Assembly Republican consultant William Weber, far right, prepare before the start of a Local Government Committee meeting in Sacramento in 2002. (PD FILE, 2002 )
Assemblywoman Pat Wiggins adjusts her headset during a Local Government Committee meeting in Sacramento in 2002. (PD FILE, 2002 )
Napa vintner Robert Mondavi, right, speaks on the floor of the state Assembly after being honored with a resolution praising him for his record of wine industry leadership in 2002. With him are Assemblymember Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, and Sen. Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata. (PD FILE, 2002 )
Assemblywoman Pat Wiggins laughs at a story told during the 2002 memorial service for Dick Day, the longtime Sonoma County political activist. (PD FILE, 2002 )
Assemblywoman Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, talks with Assembly whip Howard Wayne, D-San Diego, during a special session of the California State Assembly in Sacramento in 2001. (PD FILE, 2001 )
Pat Wiggins in 2000. (PD FILE, 2000)
Pat Wiggins in 1998. (PD FILE, 1998)
Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards tells jokes and fires up the crowd of Democratic supporters in front of local candidates, (l to r) Lynn Woolsey, Pat Wiggins, Kerry Mazzoni, Wes Chesbro and Mike Thompson at the Democratic Headquarters in Santa Rosa in 1998. (PD FILE, 1998)
Pat Wiggins in 2007. (PD FILE, 2007)
Rue Furch of Sebastopol, a longtime friend and former Sonoma County planning commissioner, said she and Conner sat with Wiggins Wednesday night, knowing it was likely the “last chance we got to say goodbye.”
“It was just extremely peaceful,” Furch said. “That was all we hoped for.”
The cause of Wiggins’ death was not disclosed. Nor was there ever a public explanation of an odd pattern of behavior that surfaced in 2009 prior to her decision not to seek re-election the following year.
A close friend declined to describe Wiggins’ illness, saying it had been “kept private by the family.”
Endowed with a keen mind, an engaging nature and a commitment to her principles, Wiggins entered public office in the mid-1990s and became a leader of the local Democratic Party’s liberal faction.
“She loved to serve the community,” said Marty Roberts of Sebastopol, a close friend who recalled that Conner and Wiggins were among the founders of Concerned Citizens for Santa Rosa in the 1980s, when Santa Rosa’s growth was an issue and the City Council had a “conservative” tilt, Roberts said.
Wiggins lost her first bid for a council seat in 1992 but won two years later, launching a career marked by her advocacy for the concept of “smart growth.”