William James Gurnett (?-1911) was an early resident of Oakland and a member of the City Council in 1870 and 1871. He also served a term as the coroner in 1872. He was nominated for Mayor in 1875, but didn't win.2 According to one source, he served in the California State Assembly from 1873-1875.3 His party affiliation is unclear, as in some places he is listed as Republican, and others he is listed as Democrat.

Gurnett came to Oakland in 1865. He was a master of the Oakland lodge No. MS, F. and A.M. (F. and A.M. = 'Free and Accepted Masons', otherwise known as 'Freemasons') and a grand master of the International Order of Odd Fellows.1  (Masters and Grandmasters are individuals who have risen very high up in the organizations ... which would have helped him politically).

References

1. "W. J. Gurnett Dead at San Luis Rey." San Francisco Call: March 23, 1911.

2. Baker, Joseph Eugene. Past and Present of Alameda County, California, Volume 1. SJ Clarke: 1914

3. "The Political Graveyard."