NAME, Years Elected to City Council

John Forrest was elected to the Oakland City Council (while in the "Commissioner" period) in 1911.


Unionist2, Progressive (There was a progressive ticket for the 1911 election)


John Forrest was born in Ireland in 1858 and arrived in Oakland in 1875. He first worked on a construction crew on the San Pablo cable road (what does this mean?). He then worked for Southern Pacific repairing cars and inspecting brakes. After SP, he worked for the gas company. Later he worked at the waterfront as a paver, moving up to a trench inspector for the City. This job involved the glamorous work of  "examining and passing upon all trenches or openings in the city streets or elsewhere made by the various utility companies for water pipes, gas mains, telephone conduits and sewers."1 

Forrest served on the Board of Education prior to be elected to City Council. In 1911 he suggested that, like San Francisco, teachers who worked in Oakland should live in Oakland. He argued that this would lead them to spend money in Oakland and lower rates of tardiness. Fellow director John McClymonds disagreed.4 Two years later, McClymonds and Forrest orchestrated a ceremonial quitting and rehiring of McClymonds with better terms. McClymonds had been the Superintendent of Schools for twenty-four years but cited the lack of harmony between the board and himself.6

Forrest was endorsed by his fellow board of freeholders as well as then-governor George Pardee. They wrote a letter supporting him: 

"The undersigned members of the board of freeholders, which prepared the new charter of the city of Oakland, desire to express their appreciation of the qualities and character of John Forrest.

Mr Forrest was not only a hard working member of the board, but acted as its chairman during nearly all of its sessions. The fairmindedness, good judgement and great store of good common sense which he brought to his work contributed in no small degree to the successful completion of the board's labors and gave evidence of Mr Forrest's capacity for public affairs."

The letter was signed by Harrison S Robinson, Raymond B Felton, R. M. Hamb, William C. Clark, Hugh Hogan, Albert Kayser, John J McDonald, C. H. Daly, Albert H. Elliott and Pardee.5

In 1912, Forrest recommended lowering municipal taxes. He recommended rates of between 18 and 26 cents lower than previous years, depending on jurisdiction.3

In 1913, Forrest and the rest of the council were fed up with the Civil Service Commission (Fred C Turner wanted a stenographer and couldn't get one), so Forrest suggested that they go on strike and let someone else run the city. The council thought that was a fabulous idea but it doesn't seem that anything came of it.7

Forrest remained president of the gas workers' union while on Council. In 1913 the gas workers went on strike and accused the Oakland Police Department of being in the employ of the gas company. Forrest backed them up and Turner, the comissioner in charge of the Police Department, denied the accusation. In traditional #oakmtg style, the issue became heated and Mayor Frank K Mott had to step in and authorize an investigation.8


  • Board of Education
  • Forrest served on the Freeholders of Oakland commission that rewrote the new charter, usually as the chairman.



  1. Baker, Joseph E. Past and Present of Alameda County, California. Volume II. SJ Clarke, 1914.
  2. Rhomberg, Chris. No There There: Race, Class and Political Community in Oakland. University of California Press: 2004.
  3. "OAKLAND WILL BENEFIT FROM TAX DECREASE." San Francisco Call: Aug 22, 1912.
  4. "OAKLAND SCHOOL BOARD DIVIDED." San Francisco Call: Oct 28, 1911.
  5. "FORREST INDORSED." San Francisco Call: May 9, 1911.
  6. "McCLYMONDS QUITS OAKLAND SCHOOLS: Takes This Step, He Says, to Stop Existing Antagonism and Lack of Harmony." San Francisco Chronicle: Feb 8, 1913.
  7. "COUNCIL TALKS OF GOING ON STRIKE: Threat to Disorganize Is the Result of Reported Mismanagement of the City." San Francisco Chronicle: Feb 6, 1913.
  8. "CHARGE THAT GUN MEN ARE EMPLOYED: Oakland Officials Promise an investigation of Strike Conditions." San Francisco Chronicle: June 4, 1913.