Mickie Winkler: Channing House’s Resident Politician and Humorist
Channing House is not your everyday Life Plan Community. It’s full of fascinating, active people that are fun to get to know. And former Menlo Park Mayor Mickie Winkler is no exception.
A native of New York City, Mickie Winkler attended college in Rochester before studying at the University of Chicago. “I studied China and Russia at a time when nobody could go to China or Russia,” she says. “Eventually, I got to live in both places for a year each. What you learn when you live in different cultures is that not everyone views the world the way we do — that there are many different ways to look at the world.”
Although Mickie is now known as a writer of humor — often inspired by politics — her post-college life started in a somewhat different direction. “Originally,” she says, “I was in marketing and mostly humor-driven advertising. I spent around 20 years doing that, which was a lot of fun. After retirement, my husband and I got into teaching conversational English in other countries. That’s when I got to live in Russia, China and countries like Turkey and Thailand.”
Returning to the U.S. in the early 90s, Mickie and her husband moved to Menlo Park. Although she had strong opinions that she’s never been shy of sharing, getting involved in politics was not on her radar. So how did that happen?
“Well,” she smiles, “it was kind of a mistake which somehow grew bigger in time. A group of friends was desperate for a third person to run on the city council ballot, so they asked me. This was back in 2002. I was thinking, they must really be desperate. Anyway, because of my oh so brilliant and honest campaign, I got elected.”
“The council also has a rotating mayorship. Each year, a new mayor is elected from the council members. In 2005, it was my turn. I wasn’t going to do it because I wasn’t really interested in the ceremonial kind of work involved. But I was going to my 50th high school reunion that year and going back as a mayor was, well, irresistible.”
Mickie looks back on her mayoral term with mixed feelings (and a lot of humor). “I used to get parking tickets regularly,” she recalls. “The reason I got so many was that I had voted against a precipitous salary raise for the local police. I even got a ticket on my bicycle for crossing railroad tracks just before the arms came down. A policeman stopped me and said, ‘Usually, Madame Mayor, I just give a lecture. But for you, I’ll make an exception.’ And he wrote me a ticket. Our encounters were so bad that when I stood for reelection, my husband refused to vote for me.”
Mickie being Mickie, she had no intention of leaving office quietly. “For my last speech, I talked about my accomplishments. One was getting a public restroom built in Burgess Park. The people were against it because they thought it would attract the homeless. Despite this, we got it built. So, as I left, I said, ‘I hope when you go to the bathroom at Burgess, you’ll think of me.”
“Humor keeps me happy, and politics gives me a lot of material,” as demonstrated in her book Politics, Police and Other Earthling Antics. “It was published by a British Company,” she explains, “because, although it is all true, it was not PC enough to get published here.”
So how did this former mayor and budding Will Rogers land at Channing House? “Well, it’s kind of thanks to Facebook,” she says. “When Facebook moved to Menlo Park, our property values skyrocketed. We sold our house and moved to Oak Creek in Palo Alto. After my husband died, I considered Channing House. I thought I’d really be doing my kids a great favor living someplace where they wouldn’t have to worry about me.”
“I really like Channing House. There’s just so much to do here. It’s also in downtown Palo Alto and, best of all, it’s a Life Plan Community, which means that if you ever need assisted living or skilled nursing, your monthly fee doesn’t go up. This is very unique. My kids love that feature too, since they know they’re not going to be on the hook as I get older,” she adds with a laugh.
In 2021,15 years after leaving office as mayor of Menlo Park, Mickie launched an “extremely unsuccessful” third-party run for governor of California. “If I’m elected governor,” she promised, “I will give our politicians a good verbal spanking. I will instruct them to stop thinking about their reelections and to start thinking about the common good. And if they don’t get with it, I’ll tell their kids what screwups they are.”
If you’d like to see why fun, fascinating people choose Channing House, a Type A, Life Care Community offering the most inclusive benefits for the cost of care uncommon among communities in the Bay Area, call us at 650-327-0950 to set up a personal tour. Who knows? Maybe you’ll run into a future governor of California.