Funny musings from Menlo Park’s former mayor

For Mickie Winkler, the absurdities of life are a constant source of inspiration. Even in these challenging times, the South Bay politician and author maintains her offbeat sense of humor.

Her point of view is on wry display in “Politics, Police, and Other Earthling Antics,” a collection of 54 short, illustrated writings that muse on modern times and asks the question “Is there intelligent life on Earth?”

Winkler, the former mayor of Menlo Park, draws on her experience in office as well as her observations of the tics and quirks of everyday human existence.

Told from the point of view of an alien from another planet observing Earth from afar, not much escapes Winkler’s gaze. The book ranges from the political to the personal, with anecdotes including “The Downside of Power: A Failed Politician Speaks Out” to “Getting Old is Getting to Be a Full-Time Job.”

She writes of her failed foray into vegetarianism and her reliance on Wheat Thins (“To Hell with Vegetables!”), considers new careers (“Only 5% of burglaries in the United States are ever solved – a 95% chance of not getting caught!”), and dispenses advice on downsizing her grown children’s expectations (“Give them hope that your demise is imminent.”)

Inspired by real-life incidents are stories of cops caught in compromising positions, hard choices in airline mishaps, and the infuriating gender bias in public restrooms.

In a recent phone call from the Palo Alto home she shares with her husband, a retired scientist, Winkler drily noted that her experience in politics taught her a lot. “In the book, I suggest that all politicians wear lie detectors,” she said. “That would solve a lot of our problems.”

Born in New York City, Winkler started her career in marketing. She says she always considered herself a liberal; after stays in the American South and Midwest, “I moved to California and found out I was a conservative.”

She served on the Menlo Park City Council from 2002-06, and became the city’s mayor in 2005 (in the book, she calls it “Menlo Lark”).

Today, she describes it as a turbulent time and a great learning experience. During her term, she upset constituents by approving the building of the city’s Rosewood Hotel (“environmentalists thought an eagle might someday build a nest there”) and getting a public restroom added to Burgess Park (“People thought it would attract the homeless.”)

Conflicts aside, Winkler looks back on her civic work with pride. She was especially gratified to lead the voter-approved Menlo Park Pension Reform Initiative, which won by 71% of the vote.

She was a one-term mayor, but she says she has no regrets. “It was an enlightening experience,” she said, “but not one I got to repeat. Even my husband said he was going to vote against me.

“But you do risk a lot for standing up for what you think is right.”

These days, she stays involved by co-writing an action-oriented email on local issues, which goes out to thousands of Menlo Park residents.

She and her husband have traveled extensively, teaching conversational English in countries including Russia, China, Turkey and Thailand; the pandemic has curbed those activities, but Winkler says she always enjoyed the work.

Winkler’s not sure where she got her sense of humor – “My parents were very serious and civic-minded,” she says – but she believes that having one is important. “It’s rewarding to look at things from a humorous perspective,” she said. “It’s a good substitute for being enraged.

“I just think that laughing is good. The anecdotes in this book are short enough that you can read them to a friend over the phone. I think of it as a very sociable book.”

BOOK NOTES

Politics, Police, and Other Earthling Antics

Written by: Mickie Winkler

Published by: Austin Macauley

Pages: 148

Price: $10.95

Georgia Rowe

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