Becoming an Incumbent Slayer, Husband, Dad and Candidate Coach
I loved serving as the City of Elk Grove’s first elected Mayor. But it all started in college. In 1997, as a student at CSU, Sacramento I learned the campus student government was advocating for the closure of the campus Women’s Resource Center. Though I was a business major studying the art of climbing the corporate ladder, I knew this was a politically motivated unjust move. So, we did the college student thing and protested and rallied the campus activist community. We stormed the Student Government chambers, pleaded our case, and….. lost. That’s right, our Advocacy effort failed.
It was at that moment when I realized the power of being on the other side of the podium. Rather than walking away having lost our battle, I decided to run for Student Body
President against the sitting incumbent who had led the battle and was to run for reelection. We ran the most aggressive campaign the campus has ever seen by producing signs, flyers, speaking to clubs, and pleading with students to get out and vote. I won by 4 votes! It was at that moment I learned that every single vote counts. And, yes, we reopened the Women’s Resource Center.
Fresh out of college, I became engaged in my community by attending community association and school board meetings. It was abundantly clear that our school board had stopped putting kids first. Recently married in 2000 to my wife, Heather, we were concerned about the quality of our schools. With three school board members up for reelection, I assembled a slate of candidates and set the stage for a 3 vs. 3 battle. We WON! Defeating all three incumbents (including a 16-year pro), we were sworn into office with a new majority of the school board. In just a few months we made significant changes to benefit kids in many ways.
At the end of my four-year term, we now had a two-year-old daughter and a newborn son. We made a family decision to move from our community to the other part of the region. So, I gave up my school board seat and we purchased a home in Elk Grove, California where I quickly started attending community meetings. It became abundantly clear that our newly incorporated city was not living up to the expectation of our city’s residents. Just
a two-year resident of the City, I found myself on the ballot challenging a member of the inaugural City Council – a political protégé whose father served in the State Senate and brother also served in local office. They apparently took me seriously as their family contributed $100k to his campaign to retain the seat. We built a large and diverse coalition, competed almost dollar for dollar, and, despite there also being another challenger to split the vote, defeated him by almost 20 points!
Six years later when the City voters decided to directly elect the Mayor, I ran for Mayor against a sitting City Council colleague and a number of other candidates – winning easily despite an aggressive campaign. My 10 years of service to the City of Elk Grove were some of the most rewarding years of my life as we turned the city around by empowering our residents in decision making, engaging neighborhood leaders, and putting in place a better plan for the future.
In 2016, I made a very difficult decision to not seek reelection. You can view my emotional announcement video here. My kids were now teenagers and my day job had become more demanding than ever. Professionally, I work for a statewide association where my job is to recruit candidate to run for local office, coach them, and see their campaigns to a successful outcome.
In total, I have recruited and coached over 350 candidates running for local or state office. Coaching candidates is what I love to do!
Although my personal political story likely isn’t over, I am now at a point in my life where I have gained significant wisdom from running for office and coaching over 350 candidates across the finish line and want to help more and more people get elected to local office. Serving in local office is where the rubber hits the road. It’s where real decisions are made. Local elected office is where communities are built, quality of life is improved upon, and lives are transformed. If you have every considered running for office, DO IT NOW!
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. If you have any interest in receiving personal candidate coaching, reading my newly released, “Preparing to Run for Local Office: Community Leadership Handbook,” or just connecting, then feel free to go here and send me a message.