With her for many of those years was Councilwoman Mary Hornbuckle, who served from 1984 to 1996.

She says Genis' background as a planner helps her understand the issues facing cities.

Genis had real tenacity during the 1990 General Plan revision, which, even though it sounds "pretty dry and boring today," Hornbuckle says, went on for a long time.

"Sandy is so detail-oriented," Hornbuckle says. "I was enormously impressed with her thoughts and ideas and the experience she brought to the council."

"We went through the General Plan literally line by line," Hornbuckle adds. "It was tedious work and sometimes exasperating, but we plowed through because we felt it was important work to do."

Hornbuckle opined that council meetings may "go a little longer" now that Genis isn't limited to three-minute comments anymore.

"She was outside the 'in circle,' outside the ruling group," Hornbuckle says. "And she had a different opinion and a different approach."

*

Fairgrounds efforts

Under the direction of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009, the state put the Orange County Fairgrounds up for sale. The stated reason to sell the public property: help the Golden State's ailing budget woes.

A Newport Beach-based company, Facilities Management West, was poised to buy the 150-acre parcel, though the effort was eventually stifled by court decisions and, in no small part, by the efforts of Genis,

president of the Orange County Fair Preservation Society. The grass-roots group is comprised of various stakeholders and concerned residents.

"We were out there," Genis says. "Whether it was collecting signatures on petitions, going to court, doing fundraisers, soliciting support from council members in Costa Mesa and elsewhere in Orange County … we were definitely out there."

With her was Costa Mesa resident Joy Williams, a preservation society volunteer who was one of several people interviewed for this story who attested to Genis' skills and work ethic.

"She is incredibly brilliant," Williams says, "with a photographic memory that would knock your socks off."

Williams called Genis a "good-hearted lady" — she has a mulberry tree in her yard that she shares with everybody in the springtime, Williams noted — and that once Genis "buckles down to study something, you can believe she's going to know every last piece of it."

Furthermore, she kept her cool, Williams says, during even the most heated Orange County Fair Board meetings.

"She's the quintessential professional person," Williams says.

Notes Katrina Foley, a Newport-Mesa Unified school board trustee and former councilwoman who worked with Genis on the fairgrounds issue, "You could always depend that she did her homework, and did everyone else's homework, and was ready for anything that may come."

She recalled being with Genis in Sacramento lobbying for the fairgrounds effort. Genis was sick, but "went through it anyway," Foley says.