10:00 PM PDT on Monday, April 18, 2011
Cassie MacDuff

As diverse as the Democratic Party is, on one thing Democrats in San Bernardino County agree:

The title of “Mr. Democrat” belonged to Mark R. Shepherd, the man with the trademark long, bushy hair and ever-present smile who showed up at every Democratic function, local and statewide.

A stickler for rules and procedures, he presided over some of the most contentious meetings of the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee.

But at the heart of his politics were his core values: equality, workers’ rights and the environment, fellow Democrats said.

Shepherd died unexpectedly Sunday in his Redlands home at age 57.

For several days, Shepherd hadn’t been feeling well but resisted friends’ urging to see a doctor because, as a self-employed consultant, he lacked health insurance.

An elected member of the county Central Committee, Shepherd served two terms as chairman. He was active in the Redlands, Yucaipa-Calimesa and San Bernardino Democratic clubs.

He volunteered on many campaigns, including Pat Meagher’s challenge of Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands.

Since June, he had hosted the weekly “Political Hour” on KCAA radio, featuring guests of all political stripes.

One of his greatest legacies was reuniting the county Democratic Party after an internal rift 10 years ago, fellow Democrats said.

Shepherd bridged the differences, got party headquarters moved into a vacant storefront and urged Democrats to run for local offices to build a leadership bench, said Rep. Joe Baca, D-Rialto, for whom Shepherd worked for six years.

When others pointed out council, school- and water-board seats are nonpartisan, Shepherd reminded them Democratic values were at stake, Baca said: Those elected officials vote on contracting out union jobs.

“He’s totally dedicated his whole life to building the Democratic Party,” Baca said. “That was his family.”

Shepherd fought vigorously for fairness, Meagher said: “At times, people could be put off by his aggressiveness, but … you knew he was fighting for a principle, for a cause, and that was justice for all people.”

Shepherd proudly drove an American pickup, built by union labor, said Democratic activist Mark Westwood. It displayed anti-war and social-justice bumper stickers.

“He was always out there standing up for what he believed was right,” said friend Nancy Ruth White.

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