Galveston’s First Female Mayor Passes Away by Trishna Buch
Janice Coggeshall, the first female mayor of Galveston, passed away on Monday June 19 at the age of 81.
Coggeshall was elected to the position of mayor in 1984. This appointment came five years after she was selected to join the Galveston City Council, in 1979. Though she was officially elected mayor in 1984, she was mayor pro-tem from 1983 to 1984. She held the seat of mayor until 1989. Her five year stint as mayor was followed by an attempt to run for a position as county commissioner of precinct two; an attempt which ended up being unsuccessful.
Despite serving the city passionately for several years, Coggeshall was not BOI (born on the island). The former city official was born in 1935 in New York. She spent her days growing up in Rochester and moved to Wellesley, Massachusetts—to attend Wellesley College. Following this, in the 1970s, she moved to Galveston because her husband—Richard—was employed at UTMB.
Coggeshall’s passion for helping the city and its residents was shown during her time as mayor and mayor pro-tem. She was instrumental in helping the city get back on its feet following two calamities—Hurricane Alicia in 1983 and the Alvenus Oil Spill in 1984. And Coggeshall’s passion for civic duty ran beyond her years as mayor and mayor pro tem. Her most recent act of duty was serving on the city’s Ethics Commission since 2011. She was also a member of the Galveston Housing Finance Corporation/Galveston Property Finance Authority and the Arts And Historic Preservation Advisory Board. In addition to this, she was also a member of the Election Recount Committee in 1991, and was appointed to the Mayor’s Tourism Roundtable in 1997; in which she served as the chair. She was also heavily involved in the Rosenberg Library. Coggeshall was also passionate about education, and this led her to be the founder of the Galveston College Foundation, along with assisting the creation Galveston College’s Universal Access 21st Century Scholarship program.
Coggeshall’s position as the first female mayor of Galveston was one to be prideful of. She was named as such, following 145 years of the city’s history. And, prior to her election as mayor, she was only the second female to be named to the Galveston city council, after Ruth Kempner in 1960. And, in an article published by The New York Times in 1988—when Coggeshall was in her last year as Galveston mayor—she was labelled as “determined” and “enthusiastic”, as well as being called “an unflagging cheerleader for Galveston.”
“Jan was a great mentor and inspiration to those that she encountered,” Carolyn Sunseri, Galveston city councilmember of district six, told me. “She was very helpful to me when I was running for election and continued to give me advice through my tenure as a council person. She will be sorely missed.”
Mike Doherty, Galveston city council member of district four, also spoke to her passion for bettering the city.
“Jan loved Galveston and dedicated her life in Galveston to making it a better place; from historic preservation, the Library, to City Council and Mayor, to health and human service issues and overall quality of life matters. She will be missed.”
A memorial service for Coggeshall took place yesterday, Saturday, at the First Presbyterian Church at 2pm