Charles Hinkle, a former Sonoma County supervisor and environmentalist who was recalled from office during a volatile era of growth and tax battles, died Saturday in Iowa where he lived in retirement.
Hinkle, 86, was one of two county supervisors, including Bill Kortum, who were recalled in 1976, in a campaign instigated by the Sonoma County Taxpayers Association.
Recall proponents insisted the issue was "excessive taxation" and "fiscal irresponsibility," while anti-recallers said it was really about future growth.
"He was in direct conflict with those who wanted to build, build, build," said his daughter, Robyn Kocher of Dakota City, Iowa.
Hinkle was described Sunday as a central player in some of the county's early environmental efforts.
"He was a key figure in advocating much more rigorous regulation of development," former west county Supervisor Eric Koenigshofer said Sunday.
He said Hinkle helped lay the foundation for future general plans that called for city-centered growth along Highway 101, the protection of agriculture and open space.
Hinkle served one, four-year term at a time when the population in the county mushroomed and the debate over how to regulate growth intensified.
Kortum said Sunday the recall forces that targeted him and Hinkle "hit us on taxes," but that was really a front by the "development and land speculation community."
"We had called a moratorium on all lot splits in the county until the General Plan was completed," Kortum said. "We knew it was a politically risky thing to do. But the county was being cut up very rapidly."
Hinkle had a feisty, sometimes described as abrasive personality, that did not always serve him well in the political arena.
"He was an irascible person when he wanted something. It was his way or the highway," said his daughter. "To be in politics and survive you have to be able to have diplomatic skills, something he didn't have."
She said her father had a defensiveness, a temper and fundamental insecurities that came out as bluster. But he looked out for the underdog.
"He was a sweetheart in so many ways. He really cared about people. He cared about the poor and the needy," she said, due in part to his own childhood poverty growing up during the Great Depression.
Born in Washington State, Hinkle grew up in Oregon, where his father was a handyman and his mother a nurse.
Before graduating high school he signed up for the U.S Navy and became part of the "Seabees," or construction battalion.
He served in the South Pacific during World War II and also was in the Navy during the Korean conflict.
After obtaining his G.E.D., he went on to get a bachelor's degree in 1954 from the University of Pacific in Stockton, where he met his future wife Mary Jean Heath. They were married 54 years, until her death in 2007.
It was around 1960, that the couple moved to Santa Rosa with Hinkle working as a full-time salesman for Swift & Co. meats.
A Cessna pilot and SCUBA enthusiast, Hinkle served as a volunteer with the Sonoma County Sheriff's Underwater Recovery Team. He was also president of the Sonoma County Reef Runners, a diving club.
It was his love of diving that led him toward environmental awareness, according to his family.