Concord Councilwoman Helen Allen leaves race

Feisty three-term Concord City Councilwoman and former mayor Helen Allen has pulled out of the race for re-election, citing the ongoing controversy over whether or not she lives in the city.

“I want the focus to be on the issues,” Allen said, “not on me. I don’t need that.”

Despite having served 13 years on the City Council and six years on the Planning Commission, Helen’s commitment to Concord came under fire after she and her husband, Bill, bought a house in Sacramento last year. At the time, she said they wanted to be closer to their grandchildren.

But Allen, a 66-year-old retired kindergarten teacher and Contra Costa native, continued to spend much of the week in Concord in order to conduct her official duties, splitting her time between Sacramento and the Concord condo she and her sister own.

Allen consulted with District Attorney Bob Kochly, who had no issue with the councilwoman’s residency. He defined residency as a place where people intend to regularly return, where they receive mail and phone calls, and keep clothing.

Yet, questions about Allen’s address continued to surface, both at council meetings and in letters to the editor.

Allen is an outspoken politician known both for her straight talk and love of fashionable and occasionally flashy clothing. She is also a conservative Republican who publicly champions property rights and has had the consistent support of developers, views that have drawn the ire of liberal Democrats.

In attempt to put an end to the residency question several months ago, the Allens put their Sacramento house on the market and announced plans to buy another home in Concord.

But the housing market has softened and she said she has been unable to sell her Sacramento house, located in a gated, senior community on the outskirts of town.

“I decided it was time for me to move on,” Allen said.

That doesn’t mean Allen is leaving town.

She says she and her husband of 40 years still intend to sell the Sacramento house and move full-time to Concord. She also continues to substitute teach in area schools.

“I’ll find something to do, believe me,” Allen said. “But whatever it is, it’s going to be something positive that contributes to the community.”

Prior to her moving to Concord, she served on the Clayton Planning Commission from 1974 to 1980 and was elected to the Clayton City Council in 1980, serving as Clayton’s mayor for two years.

Allen’s departure leaves one incumbent, Laura Hoffmeister, in the competition for three seats.

Other candidates qualified as of Wednesday morning were Michael Chavez and Harmesh Kumar. Tom Evans had qualified but has also pulled out of the race.

Two residents’ candidate paperwork were pending, including Ron Leone and Harmon West.

Lisa Vorderbrueggen