Concord Councilman Ron Leone Mixes Politics with Art

Concord Councilman Ron Leone Mixes Politics with Art

 by Richard Eber


When one thinks of Ron Leone, they recognize an individual who talks about budgets, housing, police services, and a myriad of other topics sitting on the dais as a member of Concord’s City Council.   Here’s what most don’t realize.  He’s a doodler.  He is known to doodle during council meetings, scratching his creative itch.  This affliction has nagged him since his childhood days when Leone discovered his aptitude towards art despite growing up in the blue-collar Bayview-Hunter’s Point District of San Francisco and attending the now closed Woodrow Wilson High.

But very little is spoken about Concord’s former Mayor’s artistic side even though his talents have been exercised both professionally and as a hobby throughout his entire life.   As a student at San Francisco State, Leone majored in history and art while also receiving his teaching credential from there.  He went on to work as a graphic artist for AT&T and taught art at California High School in San Ramon.  Later, while serving as the high school principal in Antioch, Leone created the logo design for the Antioch Unified School District.

Stan Lee by Ron Leone
 
 
Leone was always fascinated with comic books.  As such, he’s contributed editorial cartooning for the Concord Transcript and the San Ramon Valley Times.  One of his greatest thrills was getting legendary artist Stan Lee, of Spiderman fame, to autograph the portrait Leone drew when Lee was making a personal appearance at Concord’s Flying Colors Comic Book Store.
 
As a  member of the Concord City Council, Leone’s love of art has benefitted Concord several ways.  It was his idea for local artists to create murals on utility boxes as opposed to unsightly graffiti.  Another brainchild of his was the construction of the two archways at Todos Santos that welcome visitors to Concord which used no city funds to complete.
 
In addition, while as Chair for the Downtown Ad Hoc Steering Committee, Leone pushed for early California Architecture to be implemented in new construction surrounding Todos Santos. The archways, plazas, tiled roofs, and openness which characterizes the style first made popular by architect George Washington Smith in the 1920’s, Leone hopes will separate Concord from nearby communities.

[caption id="attachment_6158" align="alignright" width="202"] Leone with new Concord Street Sign Design

He has recently reminded city staff and prospective developers for Concord of the importance of incorporating designs made famous in Santa Barbara and the downtown shopping district in Sonoma.  On Leon’s suggestion, historical district street signs are being installed in the downtown shopping district.  In his mind “Everything we can do in government to show visitors that they are coming to a special place in Concord is a plus for the entire community.” Art is Leone’s messenger and workhorse.

In fact, he believes art is of such an important component of our daily life, he favors placing a small fee on all new developments for covering the cost of public art so that we can all proudly call Concord our home.

His newly elected colleague on the City Council, Carlyn Obringer, who has been the Chair for the annual Association of American University Women’s (AAUW) downtown Art and Wine, (and Beer) Walk, commented “Ron’s artistic expression has left an impression on our Concord community, most notably on Todos Santos Plaza where the arches that he designed, gracing the park entrances, have become a popular spot for visitors to congregate.”

 

 

Other examples of Leone’s work over the years include assisted doing the same for John Muir Health, graphic art work for a local historical book, and drawings of local sports legends as shown here:   A’s Reggie Jackson, 49er’s Jimmy Johnson, and the entire ‘75-‘76 Golden State Warriors team.

 

’75-76 Golden State Warriors

49’er Jim Johnson

Reggie Jackson