That same year, she ran for an open seat on the
Marin County Board of Supervisors. At the time
the Ladies Home Journal featured her in an article
on women delegates, boosting her campaign, and in
November the initial tally had her winning by 165
votes. But the losing candidate asked for a recount and,
in a scenario reminiscent of the 2000 U. S. presidential
election, scores of Schultz’s votes were disqualified
for ballots allegedly hard to distinguish, while dozens
of counted absentee votes for her opponent had been
improperly sealed with Scotch tape rather than sealing
wax as required at the time.
Schultz filed a complaint, and a county judge
ruled most of her original votes should be counted,
winning her the election. Her swearing-in took place
in the hallway, while the men took the oath inside
During her two terms as supervisor, Vera Schultz
led the fight for many of the reforms and services
Marin County residents take for granted today.
Initially she had to battle the entrenched power of
the “Court House Gang,” a group of male civic leaders
who resented any attempts at change, especially led by
a woman. Nonetheless, Schultz prevailed in almost
all her efforts.
One of her first proposals moved to establish the
office of County Administrator to bring business
management skills to the complex activities of government. She went on to help create a County Personnel
Commission, which would pick the most qualified people for county jobs and end the corrupt spoils system.
She also worked to establish the County Parks and
Recreation Department, as well as the public works
department and a county counsel’s office. Schultz
helped modernize county government operations
by introducing data processing and central purchasing. The voters clearly supported her efforts: she was
reelected in 1956 by a two-to-one margin.
Two Signature Projects
In her second term she introduced t wo important proj-
ects with overlapping timelines: construction of the
Marin County Civic Center and the housing develop-
ment now known as Marin City.
In the early 1950s, Marin County’s fast-growing
population was ill served by county offices in 12 scat-
tered locations and an antiquated courthouse in
downtown San Rafael. Schultz advocated for a new
courthouse complex, and in 1953 supervisors began
seeking a site. They settled on a private ranch just east
of Highway 101 and interviewed architects; in 1957,
four of the five supervisors agreed to draw up a con-
tract with Frank Lloyd Wright. Schultz was Wright’s
strongest proponent, enthusiastically championing his
then-radically modern design. But Supervisor William
Fusselman, together with County Clerk George Jones,
vehemently opposed using Wright and attempted to
block the plan, in a battle royal that lasted four years.
At a supervisors’ meeting August 2, 1957, held to
formally approve Wright’s plan, Fusselman asked to
have a report on Wright by an investigator for Sen.
Joseph McCarthy read into the record. It accused
Wright of “active and extensive support of commu-
nist views and enterprises.” Wright stormed out of the
meeting: “This is an absolute and utter insult, and I
won’t be subject to it!” he declared.
Deploring the accusations, Schultz said, “This
county does not look into the political beliefs of any
of its employees. It certainly is inappropriate that
we should subject a man of Mr. Wright’s caliber to
such unfounded and unsubstantiated charges.” In
the end, the report was never read into the record,
Wright’s plans were approved, and the contract with
him was signed by the four supervisors. Fusselman
kept trying to thwart construction, in vain: a major-
ity of Marin residents supported the project. Today
Wright’s environmentally sensitive design, with its
graceful bridging of two hillsides and nature-based
colors, is considered one of the finest public build-
ings in the United States by architects and critics
around the world.
The Marin City project, Schultz’s other major
feat, was innovative for its time, one of the first
experiments in racially integrated public housing in
California. During World War II the site, not far from
the Sausalito waterfront, held temporary U. S. govern-
ment housing for shipyard workers. After the war, the
land by law had to be offered back to the county or for
sale on the open market for future development.
Schultz’s interest in politics
and social reform began
when she helped organize
the local chapter of the
League of Women Voters
and attended every board of
supervisors meeting for her
first 10 years in Marin.