Barbara Parker sitting in her office.
Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker. Credit: Courtesy of Oakland City Attorney's Office

Barbara Parker announced on Wednesday that she plans to serve as city attorney through December 2024, the end of her third term, but that she won’t seek reelection for a fourth term.

Parker was appointed to the role in 2011 after John Russo, Oakland’s first elected city attorney, resigned to take another job. She was elected to her first full term in 2012 and was reelected in 2016 after running unopposed. In 2020, she handily won reelection again, gaining over 80% of the vote.

Parker is the only Black woman ever elected to a citywide office in Oakland.

“It has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life to serve the people of Oakland as city attorney,” Parker said in a statement today. “I love our beautiful, enlightened, progressive, dynamic and diverse city. And I am proud of the work I have done using the law as a powerful tool to improve our community and to protect the constitutional, civil and other legal rights, economic interests and the quality of life of all Oaklanders.”

As city attorney, Parker and her team of several dozen lawyers provide advice to the City Council and various departments, defend Oakland against lawsuits, and negotiate contracts for the city, among other duties.

In 2016, Parker launched the Affirmative Litigation, Enforcement and Innovation Division in the City Attorney’s Office. Envisioned as an aggressive enforcer of the civil rights of Oakland residents, the division has taken part in lawsuits against chemical companies accused of pollution, banks that have profited from discriminatory lending, opioid manufacturers and distributors who have fueled the nationwide addiction crisis, and oil companies responsible for climate change. The division has also gone after local landlords who have violated the city’s tenant protection laws.

Parker called the Affirmative Litigation, Enforcement and Innovation Division her “crowning achievement.”

A native of Seattle, Parker graduated from Harvard Law School in 1975.

“I look forward to having some time to relax and reset, spend more time with my village which includes my family, extended family, and Delta Sigma Theta sorority sisters, and to turning the page and beginning a new chapter,” Parker said about her future plans.

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.