I grew up in in a working-class family in rural Sutter County on farms in the northern Sacramento Valley. I remember my earliest jobs were picking corn, harvesting walnuts and driving a tractor. As a child, our homes were always situated next to the Bear River or Feather River so naturally, I learned to fish and hunt, camp, canoe and survive. One of my earliest memories involved sneaking away from the house (and the babysitter) to go fishing. I was five. That day, I succeeded only in stepping on a fishhook and had to hobble back, a good quarter mile, with that life-lesson stuck in my toe. I didn’t complain, though, because what I learned that day was that life, even with its difficulties, was going to be totally worth it.
I credit a strong upbringing to my dad, a Vietnam veteran, who knew the importance of teaching his three boys how to take care of themselves in a tough world that would always be there to knock them around; and to my mom, who loved us no matter how muddy we got or how unruly we became.
I learned mechanics and how to repair just about anything. I excelled all through school; in academics, athletics, student government and career-technical courses. When I went off to college in the mid-80s, however, I was still a little immature and unprepared for that life and subsequently left after a year without a degree.
For the next ten years, I would work a wide variety of jobs, mostly in the mobile electronics installation and retail music business. In 1997, I was managing a music store when a random event would change my life forever. I was injured by a group of teenage shoplifters who got caught stealing CDs from the store where I was working. There was an attack and my leg was broken, requiring surgery. Through the Employment Development Department, and an incredible rehabilitation worker, I was entered into a retraining program that allowed me to go back to college where I earned a B.A. in Communication with a minor in Philosophy from CSU, Fresno.
I did very well at Fresno State, joined the Barking Bulldogs Debate Team, and traveled for two years participating in, and winning, political debate competitions around the country. A governmental internship with the City of Lemoore my senior year led to a full-time analyst position that I would hold for the next seven. After hiring on with the City, I continued with graduate school at FSU and became the coach of the Barking Bulldogs for another two years.
The debate experience proved invaluable to me later in my career as I went up against giants like Chevron and PG&E in the public arena as a local government analyst, advocating on behalf of our citizens against the wasteful practices of the corporate world. My position at the City afforded me the opportunity to learn all aspects of local government administration while being led by a City Manager of the highest caliber.
Steven L. Froberg, the man responsible for my internship and political career, was the League of California Cities City Manager of the Year in 2004, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel with Pentagon experience, a Purple Heart recipient and my friend and mentor. I learned more during those seven years than any other in my professional life.
Writing policy and other legislation and presenting it for public consumption every week was just the routine. I authored grants, built parks and other community facilities, recruited and hired the police force, and managed the health care system for nearly 200 employees. I put up solar panels, incorporated electric cars into our fleet, and planted trees - enough to qualify Lemoore as a Tree City, USA member. I supported the elderly population in many ways and worked closely with the Tachi Yokut tribe at the Santa Rosa Rancheria to the benefit of our many native peoples there.
At the pinnacle of my government career, I was appointed to the Board of Directors and elected to the Executive Committee where I served as Secretary for the San Joaquin Valley Power Authority. The SJVPA was a coalition of 13 Central California cities, including Fresno, that organized to begin producing cleaner energy than was being made available at the time by PG&E. The utility giant fought us tooth and nail in the public square and the experience I gained in those confrontations will never leave me. To be sure, this list is not all inclusive. My duties at the City of Lemoore were vast and wide-ranging.
During that same time at the City, I taught Public Speaking, Debate and Argumentation at night at the local JC, West Hills Community College. My life was a full schedule, to say the least, but I did whatever it took to raise a family as best I could. One thing I’ve never been is lazy.
Eventually though, life changes. There was a divorce and I left (with my daughter, Alix) all of that political life behind and moved back to Northern California to pursue a new career as a public-school teacher. I would go back to college – a single dad with a teenage girl. Before it was over, I would find myself in post-2008 recession bankruptcy, living off of substitute teacher pay and financial aid in Section 8 housing asking the Salvation Army to help me pay the rent. But we persevered together; she worked while in junior college and helped pay the bills. We were strong through the toughest of times, and by 2013, I had earned Multiple Subject and Single Subject – Science teaching credentials and had started teaching sixth grade Math & Science in Lake County, one of the poorest and most neglected areas in the State. In the summer of 2016, I married my teaching partner and then in 2017, I took over the High School Auto and Paint Shop Program from the retiring teacher and put my love of math, science, racing cars and teaching kids together into what has proven to be the most rewarding and fulfilling job I’ve ever had. That is where you find me today.
My daughter, meanwhile, went off to Humboldt State and earned her Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science, moved back to Lake County, and now serves as the Environmental Director for a local tribe of indigenous Pomo people that have inhabited the area around Clearlake for 14,000 years. I’m proud of her and proud to know that Public Service is in our blood.
I also married the most wonderful woman, Kim. She and I first taught together and then through our Secret Santa drawing at Burns Valley Elementary one Christmas we started dating and later married. She’s a fifth grade teacher now, and we have a large, extended family and I can easily say that I’m the luckiest man because I married a true Saint and she is everything to me. I love this life and what it has become…and I love our new puppy, Murphy!
So why change? Why move out of my comfort zone? WHY NOW?
Because THESE ARE DESPERATE TIMES and our democracy desperately needs a new kind of politician…incorruptible, honest, hard-working, and not beholden to corporate donations and demands like so many of our current representatives. Knowledgeable, informed, logical, not self-serving, compassionate, empathetic, dedicated to our democratic values…these are the qualities that we should look for in a Congressional representative. Too many politicians today are hungry for fame, money, or power. Some join the game through personal financial independence afforded to them through family names or fortunes. Some join because they’ve been hand-picked by the establishment as the next successor in an intricate system of aristocratic hierarchy.
I am none of those people.
I am here because I have the political experience to navigate the swamp, I have the courage and conviction to always stand up for what is right, and I have the strength of character to resist the influences of the negative forces in Washington. This combination of life, work and educational experiences, I believe, makes me uniquely qualified to stand up from among the real lives that I’ll be representing. It will allow me to be a leader for ALL the people of our district.
This Hopi Prophecy guides our campaign: