The death of Kay Sandra Ceniceros, Riverside County’s first female supervisor who served in county government for over two decades, was confirmed Monday by her family.
The family has not yet announced plans for a public memorial service for Ciniceros, who died Friday from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. She was 81.
“Kay Ceniceros’ expertise in planning and land use helped shape the county into the modern, developed region that we see today,” Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington said. “She is warmly remembered as a resolute leader and a compassionate advocate by the Third District communities that she served.”
Ceniceros left the Board of Supervisors in 1996 after deciding not to seek re-election, capping a career in county government that began 24 years earlier when she was appointed to the Planning Commission.
Until the election last November of former Corona Mayor Karen Spiegel, who now represents the Second District, Ceniceros was the only woman to have served on the board, to which she was first elected in 1980.
Ceniceros, who served four terms, was known for her steadfast scrutiny of large-scale residential and commercial developments, often standing alone on issues and taking a posture that made her appear anti-growth.
She served on the California State Association of Counties, the Southern California Association of Governments and the Western Riverside Council of Governments.
“It was a great pleasure to have worked with Supervisor Ceniceros,” said county CEO George Johnson, who worked in the Department of Transportation during part of Ceniceros’ tenure. “She was a thoughtful leader, who cared deeply about the growth and future of the county. She was well-respected among her peers, county staff and residents.”
Ceniceros, who had a bachelor’s degree in urban studies and a master’s degree in public administration, sought a state Senate seat just prior to her retirement from county government, but was defeated.
Following her county service, Ceniceros landed an executive post at Mt. San Jacinto College, where she worked for three years before going into semi-retirement, residing in the Idyllwild area with her husband, Blair Ceniceros, whom she met at Occidental College and married in 1958.
In 2007, Ceniceros was asked by then-Supervisor Bob Buster to chair an ad hoc Election Review Committee, which was formed in response to complaints that the county’s electronic voting system was unreliable. The committee’s findings helped prepare the county for the state-mandated phase-out of electronic voting machines.
A senior center in Menifee was named for Ceniceros, and the board’s 14th floor Hearing Room was also named in her honor.
She is survived by her husband, three children and six grandchildren.
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