'Citizen of the Year' Judy Dinkle's designs on Moraga
By Lou Fancher
From her "behind the scenes" position, Judy Dinkle has changed the way the Town of Moraga sounds, looks, celebrates holidays and special occasions, and how it preserves its past while preparing for its future.
Recognizing the considerable contributions the 35-year Moraga resident has made, Dinkle was selected as the 2016 Moraga Citizen of the Year. An award banquet April 29 was MC'd by last year's honoree, Graig Crossley.
"Graig is the one who called me to let me know I'd been selected," Dinkle said. "I was overwhelmed at all the attention."
The annual award is sponsored by the Moraga Chamber of Commerce, Saint Mary's College, the Lamorinda Weekly and Kiwanis of Moraga Valley.
Like many civic-minded adults, Dinkle has a long history of volunteering that extends to her childhood years in Naugatuck, Conn. Her parents were role models -- involved with city council, Juniors clubs, and more -- and Dinkle recalled "putting up chairs, taking down chairs" as a Girl Scout.
"I was also involved in a church youth group and getting a space for us to meet. We cleaned up an old barn and it became our teen center."
Dinkle earning a fine arts and education degree from Southern Connecticut State University, taught and founded the fine arts department at St. Paul's High School for girls in San Francisco; and launched JD Designs, her kitchen and bath remodeling and design business.
Since 1981, Dinkle has been active in Moraga Education Foundation, the PTA, Moraga Junior Women's Club, National Charity League, Moraga Park Foundation and other groups and causes. For the last 14 years, she has coordinated the park foundation's outdoor Summer concert series.
"It's so rewarding to stand on that hill above the Commons area and see all those kids and families coming and think of the memories they'll have," she said. "It's hard work but it's so worthwhile."
A passion equal to her love of music applies to architecture; specifically, the Hacienda de las Flores. The Spanish-style estate built by Donald Rheem in 1929 and purchased by the town in 1973 has been Dinkle's subject of interest for a decade. Applying her professional expertise, she served on an ad hoc "Hacienda Committee" that led Dinkle and Margaret Depriester to found the Hacienda Foundation of Moraga. The charitable foundation has improved the property and introduced annual events like Cinco de Mayo and Oktoberfest festivals that today draw upward of 1,000 people. She is active in discussions involving the Gould-Evans project that is analyzing potential public/private initiatives for the Hacienda.
"It's so rare for a town to have a place like this: it's worth the effort to preserve it. I personally think renovating it would be a good thing."
Renovating, she said, "is totally in my wheelhouse." But Dinkle has ideas that extend beyond drywall and floor finishings.
"We need more retail shopping and dining. A restaurant in the Hacienda -- there are farm- or market-to-table possibilities -- would be welcome. We need a place to engage more with the kids at Saint Mary's College. A place to study during late night hours, with Wi-Fi and coffee."
And so it goes with a serial volunteer. On her agenda, in addition to Hacienda preservation and continuing to dole out snow-cones from the concession stand at Thursday night summer concerts, are attracting more residents to town planning meetings.
"Families raising kids are busy and fractured in terms of their time, so it's hard for them to be involved," Dinkle said. "But the direction of things in the town is being decided by a very small number of people. The general population doesn't have the town on their radar. I wish we could change that."