Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Personal Tribute: Remembering Former State Assembly member Ira Ruskin

Since the inception of the Talking with Henrietta television show, which started in 2002,  I have interviewed hundreds of interesting and engaging people.

Photo courtesy of the Ruskin family
Ira Ruskin
It is an honor for me to be able to list former State Assembly member Ira Ruskin among them. It is with sadness that I read over the July 4th weekend that Ruskin died on July 3rd from a brain tumor.

I will remember the interview that I did with Ruskin and Steve Poizner in 2004, when they were running against each other to be elected to the California State Assembly, representing the 21st Assembly District. It was a hard fought election that Ruskin won. 

In the ensuing years, Ruskin was a frequent guest on my show. In October 2009, he appeared with East Palo Alto’s former police chief, Ron Davis, to discuss the topic, The Fight Against Crime - Is It Working? On the show, we examined whether local and state crime initiatives lead to a reduction in crime. See a show excerpt at
A photo taken in 2010 showing State Assemblyman Ira Ruskin,
Henrietta J. Burroughs and Senator Joe Simitian on the Talking
with Henrietta television show.
In February 2010 – Ruskin was a guest along with former State Senator Joe Simitian for a discussion of the challenges facing California’s public and higher education systems.  The show was called, The Race to the Top - Why Should We Try to Get There? A show excerpt can be seen at

Later in November 2010, Ruskin joined Paula Sandas, the former president and CEO of the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the then Vice Mayor of East Palo Alto, Carlos Romero, on the show for a discussion of Election Results: What Do They Mean? – You can see an excerpt from that show at

State Assemblyman Ira Ruskin is shown
in 2010 handing a piece of his birthday cake 
to East Palo Alto City Councilman Carlos
Romero after their show discussion on
Talking with Henrietta.

We even had the chance, thanks to his press secretary, Karen Zamel, to celebrate his 66th birthday right after our show discussion, since he had come to the taping on his birthday.

It was several months later in May 2011, as he was preparing to run for the California State Senate that Ruskin announced that he had a malignant brain tumor that could be contained, but not cured.

I last spoke with Ruskin during a chance encounter earlier this year at the entrance to Kaiser Hospital in Redwood City. I was leaving the hospital after a routine appointment. He was arriving for a doctor’s appointment to continue the treatment he was receiving for his brain tumor. In introducing me to his wife, Cheryl, he was as gracious off the set as he was on the set.

 Resolution from the California
Legislature for the East Palo Alto
Center for Community Media
There were other occasions involving Ruskin that will be treasured. For example, it was a personally, gratifying moment to receive, on behalf of the East Palo Alto Center for Community Media, a Resolution from the California Legislature that Ruskin co-signed with Senator Simitian in December 2005 recognizing the center’s founding and the future launch of the East Palo Alto Today newspaper.

It is, indeed, a memorable experience to have had the opportunity, since his 2004 election, to talk with Ruskin about his work in the California State Legislature,  about the issues affecting California and the nation and to share this information with my show’s viewers.

Ruskin has already been described as a well-respected legislator in the accolades now being made following his death. I would also add that, during my encounters with him, I found him to be conscientious, genuinely concerned about those around him and prepared to give his best to the constituents he served.

I am fortunate, as a journalist, to have on-going opportunities to discuss the issues of the day with local and national leaders. I will sincerely miss, as will many others, having the opportunity to talk with Ira Ruskin, again.

See Ruskin family announcements regarding his funeral service on July 9th at