Arrayed to her right were Antioch Director of Economic Development Guy Bjerke, Assistant City Manager Arlene Hildebrand and Mayor Don Freitas. Ebullient Freitas, clear of voice, was in full schmooze as he laughed, scored points and made a cutting motion with his hand.
Outside it was a sparkling day in golf's great outdoors. Men wearing shirts with embroidered sailboats, horsies and fishies bent over as if observing a moment of silence, swung and looked to the sky - then embarked in the cart that whirred along the shorn grass of the sculpted landscape.
From inside, there was a view of the water, but this was far from Rivertown.
Round tables covered in white linen with napkins of the same were set for eight with polished plates, crystal and silverware and some hard choices on which fork to take on the path to the salad, the meat and the dessert. A pitcher of ice water sat dead center. As the room filled, the buzz rose to the cathedral ceiling, bounced off the beams and clattered against the wall of windows and skipped to the tables.
McPeak is a hands-on official. On her way to her table she shook hands, put hands on arms, hugged, grabbed shoulders - all as a way of saying, "Dang, but I'm glad to see you." She must have taken Italian lessons, so expressive are her hands. She often holds her palms up when making a point - in the way of warriors negotiating and showing they have no hidden dagger of an agenda.
But first let's hear from impeccably clad, careful Bob Sakai of the East Bay Development Alliance. As he talks, a huge projection of him shines from the screen behind him, as if we were in Cuba or China being briefed on a five-year plan. It's eerie but he's free enterprise.
Sakai goes over his handouts. The country's personal debt is at an all-time high and personal savings at an all-time low - we're on a binge, but if we stop spending the economy could crash - real estate prices are down (the conferees groan) - but people aren't selling low, they're hanging on - the price today will be the price in 2012 (the conferees breathe) - West-central County is losing population, Antioch is steady and Brentwood is gangbusters - maybe this is conjecture, but research jobs are moving into the area - and finally, employers follow their employees, so here come the businesses.
Diners choose the fork and eat the small salad of fresh fruit and nuts and cheese in a tasty sauce, lying there on innocent spinach. Nobody makes E. coli jokes.
Devi Lanphere, CEO and President of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce, and organizer and driving power of the conference, introduces McPeak, and this woman can speechify.
McSpeak speaks about the family drive as a little girl from Livingston to grandma's in Vallejo, and how she thrilled at US Steel lighting the night as they passed on Highway 4. Trim and fit, she alludes to her age. "I got my first paid job 35 years ago at the Community Health Center next to the New Mecca cafe in downtown Pittsburg." She leaves it to the conferees to do the math. Perhaps it was a special internship for bluebirds.
She mixes cheerleading with figures of the big bucks needed to provide a world-class infrastructure for California. She reminisces about her politicking in East County. "I walked for Joe Canciamilla when he was 17" and running for and winning a seat on the Pittsburg Board of Education. Canciamilla's a Democrat, but a reach-out Democrat and McPeak works for a Republican governor.
The white-and-black clad wait staff bring on the chicken under a sauce with some shrimps off there to the side and a healthy green stock of broccoli cooked precisely 11 minutes so the buds are firm.
Pretty, pragmatic sunny McPeak talks about arm wrestling with the director of finance about the huge investment needed in the infrastructure, a huge investment at the time. "We had no money." The governor didn't say no, he said how much, said McPeak.
Ticking off the propositions on the November ballot - 1A protects us from another theft of money from the gas tax fund as the Gray Davis administration did (but with no mention of Schwarzenegger borrowing from school funds) - 1B for transportation, 1C for housing, 1D for schools, 1E for flood control - she gets in a pitch to reform the process of getting the job done and talks about a "joint venture with the private sector."
She lists a litany of needs - increasing the share the fare box pays for public transportation - having enough density around transit stations to support public transportation - designing transit villages so residents can walk to the grocery store ("God knows we can use the exercise") - and providing choices of transportation.
"Engagement of citizens is critical," she said, and "power doesn't flow through Washington or Sacramento." When dollars flow through the federal or state government, there is a friction loss, she said.
McPeak peaked with this crowd pleaser: "We'll make a major investment in Highway 4."
It was a speech delivered without notes. In a conversation during her hands-on departure she said she would try to go to downtown Pittsburg and look at what's going on around the New Mecca cafe, which is still there.
Outside, everything was gentle and graceful - the curve and climb of the road as it followed the reservoir's shore, the trees, the reeds at water's edge, the grass and the little wind rippling the water.