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Phillip Isenberg

Phillip L. Isenberg, an inventive and unconventional Sacramento political leader, died Thursday, October 26, 2023, after a short illness.

He was known for his delight in forging implausible, successful coalitions of people and interests to solve difficult governmental problems, as a generous patron of the arts and music, and for his passions for fishing and birding.

During his more than 50 years of public service, Isenberg:

  • Represented his neighborhood on the Sacramento City Council
  • Served as mayor of Sacramento for five years
  • Represented Sacramento and the Delta in the California State Assembly for 14 years
  • Was a professor of government at Sacramento State University, McGeorge School of Public Policy, and the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy
  • Was on the Board of Directors of the California State Library Foundation, WEAVE (Women Escaping a Violent Environment), and the Public Policy Institute of California, and he was one of the founding board members of the Verge Center of Arts in 2010
  • Chaired the Marine Life Protection Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Delta Vision Blue Ribbon Task Force, and the Delta Stewardship Council

He is survived by his wife, Marilyn Araki Isenberg, of 60 years of marriage. He is also survived by his sister, Nancy Isenberg Otterness, PhD; nephews, Larry & James (Carol Pedersen) Otterness; nephew Terrance (Karen Levy) Noriye, Berkeley & niece Tracy (Jim Romano) Noriye, El Cerrito. Phil was pre-deceased by his parents, Walter & Violet Isenberg, Carmichael.

Memorial Donations

In lieu of gifts, remembrances may be given online and by mail to

Verge Center for the Arts
625 S St.
Sacramento, 95814
(916) 448-2985