Sally Shipman

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Former Austin City Council Member Sally Shipman, who friends say fought to protect neighborhoods and the environment against development pressures, died Monday.

Shipman died of leukemia at a Houston hospital. She was 69.

"She always stood up and spoke out for what she believed in, even when it might hurt her politically," said Beverly Scarborough, her council aide. Shipman served on the City Council from 1983 to 1990.

A Beaumont native, Shipman earned a liberal arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1960. She married Bob Shipman and had three children.

It was her children's walk to school that prompted Shipman to enter politics. She asked city leaders to build sidewalks in her Tarrytown neighborhood so children could get safely to Casis Elementary School.

City officials rebuffed the request, inspiring Shipman to take a bigger interest in neighborhood issues and earn a master's degree in urban planning from UT, Bob Shipman said.

Shipman was appointed to the city's Planning Commission and served six years before running for City Council. She was elected in 1983 and won re-election in 1985 and 1987.

Political consultant David Butts, who worked on Shipman's campaigns, said she was a true grass-roots candidate who drew strong neighborhood support and "had an earnestness and a capacity for plowing her own course."

In 1990, Shipman cast a key vote against a plan by mining company Freeport-McMoRan and its CEO, Jim Bob Moffett, to build in the Barton Creek watershed, a landmark moment that sparked Austin's environmental movement, said Shipman friend and activist Mary Arnold.

Shipman also helped write rules to prevent views of the Capitol from being marred by tall buildings, pushed to get city land around Town Lake that was vulnerable to development dedicated as park space, and opposed municipal utility districts in environmentally sensitive areas, Arnold said.

"She had boundless energy and a wonderful way of working with people and cutting to the chase, of hearing out a problem, then figuring out what to do," Arnold said.

After moving to Houston in the early '90s for her husband's job, Shipman worked for the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Bob Shipman said.

Shipman is survived by her mother, Dorothy Stevens; her husband; children Susan Shipman, Mark Shipman and Sarah Garcia; son-in-law Sergio Garcia; and grandson Jack Garcia.

Funeral services will be Friday at University Presbyterian Church.
Published in Austin American-Statesman on May 29, 2007
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