With heavy hearts, Renne Public Law Group announces that our dear friend and colleague, Randy Riddle, passed away last week.
As many of you know, Randy was a brilliant and gentle soul, with high integrity and a terrific sense of humor. A product of Ottumwa, Iowa – home to MASH’s fictional character Radar O’Reilly, as Randy often reminded us – Randy delivered his humor with characteristic understatement.
Randy began his legal career in 1985 as a San Francisco Deputy City Attorney. He quickly became an indispensable member of the Office and close working partner and lifelong friend of venerable municipal law expert Buck Delventhal.
Time and time again, Randy was at the center of San Francisco’s defense in lawsuits challenging some of the City’s most critical policies and practices. From thwarting attempts to dismantle the City’s affirmative action programs to successfully guiding the City through controversial and thorny election challenges, Randy demonstrated an uncanny ability to tie together disparate strands of law into the overarching fabric of the public interest – and make all those around him laugh on the way there.
In the words of former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos:
“Randy’s values and integrity made him one of the most trustworthy individuals I ever met in public service. His legal expertise and political acumen were the foundation of many election reforms that protect and empower the most precious right we have . . . the right to vote. On a personal level his affability and quirky humor will be missed by all who had the good fortune to know him.”
Beginning in 1995, Randy took a three-year sabbatical from San Francisco to become the Legal Counsel to the National Senate of the Republic of Palau, which had recently gained its independence from the United States. There, Randy drafted legislation, provided advice on a wide range of domestic and international issues, represented the Senate in litigation, and honed his fishing, boating and diving skills.
Randy worked under three elected San Francisco City Attorneys – George Agnos, Louise Renne and Dennis Herrera – and three San Francisco Mayors – Art Agnos, Frank Jordan and Willie Brown. He headed the San Francisco City Attorney Office’s Ethics and Elections Team and Government Litigation Team, and served as General Counsel to the City’s Registrar of Voters and Ethics Commission. His impact on San Francisco was tremendous:
“Randy was an indispensable part of our office. More than being an excellent lawyer, he was a wonderful human being – kind, generous and loving. He cared in the deepest sense about the well-being of both the public and his colleagues.”
– Former San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne
“Randy was one of the brightest lights of this office. He was a tremendous lawyer – and a better person.”
– Current San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera
In 2003, Randy left San Francisco to become Chief Counsel to then-California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley. There, he oversaw a Gubernatorial recall election and successfully defended more than a dozen pre-election lawsuits related to the recall. He also took on election machine manufacturers on behalf of the Secretary of State, ensuring they utilize adequate paper-trails and upgraded hardware and software to protect election integrity.
In 2005, Randy became a partner at Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai, Public Law Group, a law firm founded by Louise Renne after leaving office, and in 2018, Randy helped form our new law firm, Renne Public Law Group. During his time with the firms, Randy served as Richmond’s City Attorney and Corte Madera’s Town Attorney, and handled complex ethics and elections matters for public agencies throughout California.
“When Randy came to Richmond, he brought stability and professionalism to a then struggling organization, gaining the confidence of the City Council and bringing support to grateful department heads. He was immediately missed when he left Richmond, but the quality of his work continued well beyond his tenure.”
– Former Richmond City Manager Bill Lindsay
In 2009, Randy began teaching Election Law as an Adjunct Professor at the University of San Francisco Law School. Additionally, Randy was an active member of the City Attorneys’ Department of the League of California Cities, and chaired the Department’s Fair Political Practices Commission Committee.
In 2012, Randy was named one of California’s Top 25 Municipal Lawyers by the Daily Journal. He was previously named a California Super Lawyer in the area of political law.
In the words of Dennis Aftergut, Chief Assistant City Attorney for much of Randy’s time with San Francisco, “Goodness and skill, rarely, if ever, so combine.”
We know many statewide will miss Randy as much as we do. May his memory be a blessing.
A memorial service celebrating Randy’s life was held on May 13, 2021. A recording of the service is available here.