Encinitas City Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan has died of cancer at age 63.
In an email that went out to the public Saturday morning, fellow Encinitas Councilwoman Teresa Barth wrote: “It is with great sadness that I tell you Maggie passed away last night.”
Houlihan was born June 16, 1948, in Hollywood and raised in Long Beach. In 1970 she moved to Leucadia to raise her young son, Chris, after she fell in love with the community’s charm, namely its beaches and tree canopy along South Coast Highway 101. Here she quickly earned a reputation as an animal lover, and was known to rescue frogs on the road during rainstorms, as well as turtles, iguanas, cats and dogs.
In 1975 she completed her degree at UCSD and was subsequently hired to work in the university’s library—a career that ultimately earned her Employee of the Year in 1993.
Ever dedicated to animal-welfare issues, in 1990 she co-founded the Spay and Neuter Action Project, and in 1998 she founded Wee Companions Small Animal Rescue for guinea pigs, rats and hamsters.
Houlihan was elected to the Encinitas City Council in 2000, and in 2004 and 2008 her campaigns generated the most votes in the City Council race. During her stint on council, Houlihan served as mayor and was largely credited with increasing transparency in government, which has included televising council meetings, uploading city documents and implementing an electronic notice system through which residents can get any and all agendas from council, commission and committee meetings. She was also credited with creating the Pet Health Expo and Encinitas Garden Tour.
In 2005, Houlihan was diagnosed with cancer and pronounced cancer-free after treatment. Four years later, it returned. she revealed that she wouldn’t be electing chemotherapy to treat the endometrial cancer that had spread throughout her body.
Shortly after making that announcement, Houlihan told Encinitas Patch that she believed "we need to grab the gusto each and every day as it comes, whether sunny, rainy, filled with challenges or easy."
Houlihan lived up to that sentiment, continuing to serve her constituents by participating in City Council meetings via phone as her health declined.
Earlier this month, Rancho Coastal Humane Society hosted Dozens of people gathered to celebrate her years of dedication of animal welfare and service to the community, something she was visibly moved by.
“This is so typical Encinitas,” Houlihan said of the public outpour of love that day.
During that public tribute, former Del Mar City Councilwoman Crystal Crawford expressed gratitude and admiration for Houlihan.
“I recently heard that happiness is found somewhere between community service and love, and I think that’s Maggie," she said. "Maggie is all about love and community service, and she is one doggone happy woman.”
Houlihan is survived by her son, Chris Theobald, and husband, Ian Thompson.
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