The County Voice

Dais to Dome: A County Supervisor Transitions to the Statehouse

I came to Sacramento to make sure the local perspective was represented at the Capitol. It had become crystal clear in my 14 years as a Napa County supervisor that the interests of cities and counties — and the communities they serve — were often overlooked. We need to create a state with good schools, clean air, safe streets and ample jobs that we can be proud of for future generations.

So I was passionate about delivering services at the local level but not naïve. I knew my enthusiasm must be tempered by a spirit of cooperation and a belief that it is much easier to accomplish goals when you are open to compromise. Working on the five-member Board of Supervisors taught me the importance of learning to count to three. It is the same at the statehouse — only you have to count a lot higher. I also believe in the value of teamwork and hiring good staff. To quote President Harry S. Truman, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets credit.”

My legislation, first in the Assembly and now in the Senate, builds on some of the same ideas I advanced as a local elected official, including water policy, support for agriculture and open space protection.  However, since arriving in Sacramento, my proposals have taken a broader scope. In addition to representing 140,000 Napa County residents, I now serve a sprawling district that covers six counties with nearly one million people. And I’m working with 120 Senators and Assemblymembers across the state.

Together, we’ve pursued efforts to improve education, fix the state’s roads and ensure public safety for California’s 39 million people. This year, I’m writing bills that would open public preschool to all 4-year-olds, protect low-income families from having their water shut off and reduce drunken driving. In the wake of last year’s devastating wildfires, I’ve introduced a package of legislation to advance wildfire recovery and preparedness, including bills that would require utilities to improve their infrastructure and adopt policies to proactively de-energize power lines in extreme weather.

It’s been challenging yet rewarding. We accomplished a lot last year, my first in the Senate, when I got 14 bills signed into law and the state made significant investments in roads and housing. Working with my colleagues, I’m looking forward to another productive year. I’m chairman of the Governmental Organization committee, which has wide-ranging jurisdiction including oversight of the state’s emergency response and gaming compacts, and serve on four other committees.

In so many ways, counties are subdivisions of the state. They are inextricably linked to policies moving forward at the Capitol.  My time as a supervisor was an excellent primer. It taught me the vital role of local government – which is closest to the people — and helps me in almost every aspect of being a state legislator.

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