Forty-one years ago, I left the gentle ocean breezes and sunshine of Westchester to live and work in Sacramento — cold, damp, foggy Sacramento; government-town Sacramento; tomato-and-rice farming Sacramento. Goodbye, civilization. Hello, “cow town.”
My fascination with politics was triggered as a fourth grader by the 1948 Truman vs. Dewey campaign. But, Bill Fitzgerald, my political science professor at LMU, converted my fascination into participation. I long wanted to be a political reporter, but I did not consider working in politics until a year after graduation when I volunteered in Bill’s 1962 Congressional campaign. Those months changed my life’s direction.
After Bill was defeated, I went to work for the political operation of Assembly Speaker Jesse Unruh in Los Angeles, where I dreamed about moving north to work for him in the governor’s office. That dream did not work out as planned. As everyone knows, Unruh lost to Ronald Reagan. But I moved to the capital anyway to become chief administrative officer of the Assembly in what was then the nation’s most highly regarded legislature. After 10 years inside the Capitol, I left to establish Public Policy Advocates, where I’ve negotiated issues and lobbied positions for major corporations, local governments and nonprofits.
As a legislative staffer and a lobbyist, I’ve seen government and politics up close. I’ve worked with politicians in both parties who are intelligent, ethical and know how to get things done; and I’ve worked with others who are self-serving phonies.
I anticipated my work in Sacramento would be challenging, meaningful and gratifying — and it was. I worked at something with value, meaning and purpose. The big surprise was that I came to enjoy living here. Sacramento now has most big-city amenities and is blessed with diversity, a relatively relaxed pace of life and plenty of opportunities to engage in community action. One of those opportunities came my way as I considered retirement: I now serve on the board of Cristo Rey High School, a Jesuit-inspired college prep school that exclusively enrolls economically disadvantaged students. Its unique work-study program subsidizes their tuition.
I’m glad I relocated those many years ago, and I’m grateful for what this city has offered me. Sacramento is a “cow town” no more.