Life after Life
Is there life after Life? I’m about to find out.
I write this on my 59th birthday, but it’s not a retirement. It’s a stepping back. And yes, I’m going to spend some time with my family.
Julie Samrick will take my place. She’s an El Dorado Hills mom and a good journalist who’s been covering the schools and writing clever columns for Village Life for the last couple of years. When I was on limited duty last year she stepped up like Richard Simmons on Red Bull. Thanks Julie.
At this point I’d love to indulge myself and garner a guffaw or better yet, a gaggle of giggles from you with some anatomical analogies, silly syllogisms, meddle-measuring metaphors and omniscient onomatopoeia, but would no doubt slip into wretched rhetoric, salacious sentences, prosaic prose, narrow narrative and illiterate alliterations.
But I’ve got to same room for props to the El Dorado Hills people I’ve connected with.
Let’s start with a really loud shout out to the four women, all great editors, who are responsible for my journalism career, starting with my wife Michele. She’s indulged my late-life journalism habit with tolerance and grace, graciously putting up with the long hours and short pay. She’s the jelly on my peanut butter.
I’ve also enjoyed three amazing bosses. The first, Leslie Vandever, took a chance on this washed up software executive. She taught me enough journalism to fake it and nurtured my passion.
Folsom Life Editor Roberta Long inherited Village Life at a time when the two papers were larger and I was smaller. As dual editor she covered all the Folsom City politics, some of the goings-on in El Dorado Hills and also wrote a column or two every week, while spending two-plus days assembling it all. She nearly killed herself in the process.
Roberta taught me not to assume who the good guys were, and that I had a right and a responsibility to ask questions.
Noel Stack took the reigns and orchestrated our move to Placerville. She taught me a lot of journalism and beseeched me to get to the point. She is wise between the ears, and beyond her years, and has put up with way too much from me, present column included. She’s a good journalist and a good friend.
Hundreds of you opened up your lives to me over the years. I sat on your sofa the day after your daughter’s funeral, listening to you recount the details of her life in the aromatic haze of wilting floral arrangements you couldn’t bear to part with.
I choked down the lump in my throat and admired your courage. Could there be a better use of community newspaper?
I witnessed El Dorado Hills at its very best, when thousands of you lined Silva Valley Parkway to honor Sky Mote.
Each of those experiences moved me and informed the voices in my head, which responded with some of my best work.
So many of you have been kind to me over the years. For mer EDHCSD General Manager Wayne Lowery taught me so much, as did all three of his successors, most notably Rich Ramirez, one of the wisest people I’ve ever met.
Fire Chiefs Veerkamp, Roberts, Kennedy, Planje, O’Camb and Ballenger all became friends, which sometimes made fire district budget and politics hard to write about. But there is no denying that your local fire department is a leadership factory.
Oak Ridge Administrative Assistant Kathy Botkin and Counselor Glen Swedelson always made time for me and tossed some great stories my way over the years. What an amazing place.
I spent an hour on the phone with Norm Rowett late last night. He’s in that special class of egoless public servant that works behind the scenes for decades, focusing on process, quietly trying to better the community.
Someone, perhaps me, should record the stories that Norm and his friend John Hidahl accumulated during the cityhood effort.
Include Dennis Ferguson, Larry Brilliant and Gary Costamagna on that list, three faithful former fire board guys who selflessly served until running afoul of their union in the pre-Anselmo era.
Hopefully the intelligence and leadership that Capt. Tom Anselmo exhibited during his tenure as union boss will continue going forward.
Marshall Hospital spokesman T Abraham became a close friend over the years. The former EDH Chamber board president might be the most civically engaged person I know. His advice and introductions were invaluable during my mother’s final year of life, much of which was spent in the care of his employer. As a two-term Community and Economic Development Advisory Commissioner, T has his thumb on the pulse of county politics, land use, and economic issues and has been an open book. His work at Marshal and on the board of numerous local non-profits make his perspective truly unique.
Other notables include Jeff Haberman and Ray Meyers. These guys have been on and off CSD boards and committees over the years, and always seem to show up when something important is happening. They’re all leaders, and you may not agree with every cause they’ve adopted over the years, but please respect their passion and hard work for the betterment of their community.
Other smart men I’ve enjoyed hanging around include: John Knight, Jack Sweeney, Hal Erpenbeck, John Thompson, Matt Semonsen, LG Lloyd, Harry Norris and Del Haven.
Smart, powerful women I’ve had the privilege of spending time with include Alyson Huber, Betty January, Fran Thompson, Pat Thomsen, Melinda Peak, Beth DeCaprio, Jennifer Bassett, Debbie Manning, Natalie Buerke, Kathye Russell, Shawna Purvines, Lindell Price, Michelle Elliston, Jackie Nelson, Paula Smith, Mary Carrera, Janet Kenneweg, Yvonne Griffith and Ursela Smith.
To all those I missed, please know that you are also appreciated.
It’s easy to get stirred up over something you don’t like in your neighborhood, but the dissidents that have earned my deepest respect take on issues that aren’t in their backyard, people like Jennifer Bassett, who created Hands 4 Hope to reach outside of El Dorado Hills.
My all-time favorite has to be Joni Remer, the El Dorado Hills mom who famously stood up to the hate-spewing anti-gay “truth trucks” in 2005 and will always be my hero.
El Dorado Hills, please celebrate your visionaries. Alan Lindsey is gone, but his successors are still around. The lifestyle you currently enjoy is the result of their struggle and vision.
Tony Mansour has become a friend. I never tire of hearing his stories about what it took to get from there to here. I hold a profound respect for him.
I also respect Bill Parker. Yes, these men are developers, but they are also dreamers. Like Lindsey and Larry Cameron, their contributions won’t be fully appreciated until long after they’re gone.
By the way, make no mistake, large land-use things are happening. Land-use is complicated. Please try to keep an open mind. Take the time to learn about what’s going on in your community. The Village Life will continue to cover the tough issues and provide you some perspective.
And please stop calling El Dorado Hills a city. It’s not, and it matters. If Rowett and Hidahl, Greg Jones, Jim Brunello and several others had their way you’d live in a city, but you voted that down.
“Town” is also inaccurate. You live in a “community,” or if you are Paul Raveling, an engineer down to his toenails whose activism deserves a special category of recognition, perhaps “different drummer,” you would say El Dorado Hills is a “census designated place.”
I’ve been rough on District 1 Supervisor Ron Mikulaco of late, perhaps because he was a friend before he ran for supervisor and I expect big things of him as the only supervisor representing El Dorado Hills.
Do your homework, Ron. This stuff is hard. Listen to the right people and form your own opinions. El Dorado Hills is counting on you.
Early in this grand journalism experiment I realized that I just had to open myself up to your experience, then listen to the voices in my head, write them down and push the words around a little. On good days the voices are loud and insistent, flowing onto the hard drive in neat sentences. Other days they have to be coaxed out.
Sentences are all negotiations. Some end quickly and amicably for all involved. Others take on a life of their own, spinning out of control for days, emerging battered and strung out.
Those voices are still up there yabbering away, fueling this final farewell late into the evening at the close of another long day of long stories.
You haven’t heard the last of me. I’ve often said that I was born to do this job in this place. I still feel that way down deep. But another side wants to create some space, to give serendipity one more chance, to see if this has been a giant step on a longer path.
I believe we create our own destinies, but also that everything happens for a reason. The hundreds of you that have opened up your lives to me in one way or another have been placed in my path for a reason.
At times we’ve formed powerful personal connections. I haven’t tried to understand it, and haven’t talked about it much but it’s strong medicine.
I walk into your business to do a 15 minute, 150-word “spot profile.” An hour-and-a-half later we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, you’ve opened yourself up to a complete stranger and exposed your vulnerabilities, which also turn out to be your strengths.
Those interactions have made me who I am today. Thank you.