In 1972, Gloria McClellan began her 29-year role as Councilwoman and Mayor of Vista. She served as Chair for the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), helped to bring the County Courts and public library to Vista, and advocated for disabled children and care for the homeless. A zealous spokeswoman, Mayor McClellan became known as a visionary humanitarian and began a Senior Nutrition Center in her home. Gloria was instrumental in creating a center to serve Vista's older adult population, and the Gloria McClellan Center opened in 1974.
Before her service on the City Council, McClellan joined several civic organizations and eventually became president of the North County School for the Mentally Disabled. She continued her work for children, particularly those of homeless families. As mayor, she approved several measures to benefit the well being of homeless families, most notably a 100-bed program and the year-round Regional Family Transitional Housing Program. In addition, she supported a soup kitchen and a 60-bed program for homeless recovering from substance abuse. Her reach extended to more than seven-hundred thousand homeless. Gloria McClellan left a powerful legacy through redefining Vista and became a model for creative, consistent support for the homeless.