A bench at dog park now bears the name of one its strongest backers and allies in animal rescue, Encinitas Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan.
Surrounded by friends and longtime supporters, Houlihan was presented with the dedicated bench during a public tribute held in her honor Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m overwhelmed by the presentation,” said Houlihan, with her beloved rescue dog of nine years, Rose, at her side. “This is so fitting. It’s perfect.”
Houlihan, who has endometrial cancer and has elected to not to use chemotherapy, now participates in council meetings via phone due to her health. Her public appearance Wednesday provided a chance for many to thank her in person for her years of service. Among those expressing gratitude was former Del Mar city councilwoman Crystal Crawford.
“Maggie has made a difference not only in Encinitas, but across the county,” she told the audience. “She’s been brave enough to speak up on issues affecting all of us, like the environment, and government accountability.
“I recently heard that happiness is found somewhere between community service and love. I think that’s Maggie. Maggie is all about love and community service and she is one doggone happy woman.”
Houlihan’s decades of service include the co-founding of the Spay and Neuter Program in 1990 and the founding of Wee Companions Small Animal Rescue in 1998. She was elected to the council in 2000, and has been largely credited with increasing transparency in government, which has included televising council meetings, uploading city documents and implementing an electronic notice system through which citizens can get any and all agendas from council, commission and committee meetings.
After the dedication ceremony, many residents lingered to personally thank Houlihan, some embracing her and wiping away tears.
“This is so typical Encinitas,” Houlihan said of the outpouring of support, adding that the city’s partnership with Rancho Coastal Humane Society is proof of what can come about when public and private entities collaborate for a greater good. “It’s partnerships like these that make Encinitas so strong as a community.”
RCHS president Jim Silveira said the feeling is, of course, mutual.
“This was the least we could do to say thank you for all of her support,” he said of behalf of RCHS, which also declared the day Maggie Houlihan Day. “There really are no words that express that kind of gratitude we have.”