Life after Life

By From page A5 | June 12, 2013

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.

Mike Roberts

Discussion | 32 comments

  • Janet KennewegJune 09, 2013 - 2:05 pm


  • Janet KennewegJune 09, 2013 - 2:06 pm

    I LOVE YOU, Mike Roberts!

  • Janet KennewegJune 09, 2013 - 2:06 pm

    OOOOPS - DUH! Didn't know I did that twice....... :)

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 2:38 am

    thanks Janet. Now get that senior day care open, woodya?

  • Hal ErpenbeckJune 09, 2013 - 4:38 pm

    It felt like I just read an obituary. Mike the “census designated place” of El Dorado Hills is going to miss you. You have been an important part of El Dorado Hills for a long time. We are going to miss you in print but thankfully not in person. The best of luck on you next venture.

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 2:41 am

    You inspire me Hal. That's why I follow you around... Aging Commission, Clarksville history board, what next? How about senior peer counseling?.

  • Betty JanuaryJune 10, 2013 - 6:29 am

    I will miss Mike's articles very much. He has been the best thing to happen to the Village Life. I could always depend on his thorough coverage. He could be seen out and about covering the happenings in our community. Mike is also a good friend. This community will sorely miss you!!!!

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 2:43 am

    Hey Betty my friend. Glad to still be on your good side. What say we build a fence around an old graveyard? I've got the clamshell digger and comealong.

  • Doug HusJune 10, 2013 - 8:15 pm

    Thanks for reminding us what's important and who's been working for the betterment of this community. Glad you got something from back from us besides those huge paychecks. You will be missed!

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 2:46 am

    Doug you are too kind. Remember when we met? I was doing websites for Kevin Bell when he and Kevin Souza bought the office building and subdivided it with your guidance, stuck all the cubicle furniture from R systems in there and rented out every single office within a couple months. You guys made it look easy. Best of luck with the Bass Lake property.

  • Carolyn BrooksJune 12, 2013 - 9:37 am

    We will be diminished by your loss, but your efforts have moved all of us to do better and be better, and we have grown as a community because of your insightful and thought-provoking articles. Thank you from the community that you have challenged and informed!

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 2:50 am

    Carolyn you amazing Ren-faire queen, pirate wench and cabin boy. So many amazing stories in that library. And so much writing accomplished in that back corner... my power zone. I may have to go there tomorrow, as I still have a bunch of stories to finish.

  • M EllistonJune 12, 2013 - 5:51 pm

    Happy belated birthday and thank you noble newspaperman, although thank you isnt nearly enough. Our community is a better place for having you in it. Much love to you and your jelly.

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 2:52 am

    Michelle power woman, mentor to my friend's kid. Thanks for the drier. Keep Ron pointed in the right direction. See you in Shingle tuesday AM.

  • Terry CrumpleyJune 14, 2013 - 12:18 am

    It has been a pleasure getting to know you, Mike. I do hope I will be seeing you around.I am a better person to know you and I thank you very much for all the times and words we shared. You will always be at the top of my list. You've been very kind to me, and I thank you. Bless you with all you do. You may always call on me if you have a need. Thank you.

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 2:53 am

    Thanks Terry. Keep this up and you are going to give the Tea Party a good name. It was a fun election night at Serrano with Jay, was it not?

  • Justin MastersJune 19, 2013 - 7:04 am

    Mike, I've followed you over the years, and consider you the best writer that EDH has ever had. You're fair, immerse yourself in all sides of the story, and are able to present complex issues to the lay person very well. I'm no longer in the community, but every once in a while, I'd sneak a peek at Village Life to read your stuff. While serving on the CSD board, you were a regular attendee, captured some difficult discussions, shared insights with me, and I appreciated your tireless devotion to bringing truth to light. There were times I wish I could have said something to you, but was prohibited by law from doing so, because I knew you'd run down every bit of info to get the full story - a quality that seems rather selective in major media outlets. That's a testament to your editors who let you clamp on with your teeth and not let go. I know I didn't always agree with HOW you wrote an article, wishing you had dug in more on a particular item, or explained more about a viewpoint that *I* shared. (LOL), but never let it be mistaken for the sincere respect I have for you as a writer and a human being doing his very best to serve his fellow man (and woman). You had a passion for nature and people all around you, and your photos and stories reflected that. Most of the people you recognized have been influences in my life as I lived and served in El Dorado Hills. I've disagreed with some of them, sometimes vehemently, sometimes silently, but in time came to again respect them as individuals with a different viewpoint and admired their willingness to serve in their capacities and not just sit on their buns, but get up and DO something! My hat is off to each of you! Getting the truth was an overriding principle, along with the determined doggedness that a report SHOULD have, and you exemplified it! We've shared a few times and stories together, and I was sorry to hear of your family struggles in the midwest, as the torch was passed from one generation to another. Let it be known that they have much to be proud of in their son. I remember following with piqued curiousity the story of your early travels in the Southern California desert, through foul weather and beat up trails in an old VW, and laughing when it was all to get to a hot spring with a bunch of strangers. Mike, you were always great for telling tales that secretly stirred soul and made me wish I had explored life the way you did just a little bit more. I remember that drive to go have lunch in a restaurant in a little town (I can't remember the name), but the place was closed down. I remember how disappointed you were that this great place you bragged about, and had fond memories of, was now a relic of the past. You wanted to share a special moment of your life with me, and I appreciated the effort you made in doing so! We meandered into an overpriced sandwich shop to eat, but it was the experience that was remembered. And my son still talks about the time you took us on a walk to see some Indian Grinding rocks behind Ridgeview. You shared parts of your life with others, and enriched us! I've dragged this out way too long, and have tears on my face as I write this. It feels like a funeral where I've just shared some happy moments of your life with myself and others. But I know that this is just a chapter in your life, and there are many more people who will be blessed just as I have been. You'll remember my verbosity in my own writing of letters to the editor or in sharing the nuances of an issue surrounding the CSD. (Look at this "memorial" as an example.) But I still laugh when you called me one time and recognized what had to be the SHORTEST submission I ever wrote "No." And you wanted to know if I was feeling ok. (Well, you wanted more details, and unfortunately I was restricted from providing it by law.) But thanks for recognizing the little details! I'll be in touch! Perhaps sooner than later! Because the precious moments shared with others sure seems to slip by all too quickly before before they truly do become a memorial.... Let's make some more memories! Lunch. This friday! My treat.

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 3:01 am

    Justin, I would expect nothing less than a full missive from you. To honor your two terms on the CSD board and you long and ultimately futile battle to save the historic Bertelson Pool, and the equally long but totally successful battle for Promontory Park I am responding to you at 2:56 a.m.. As I recall you were prone to late night missives. I'll see you tomorrow at Bricks, across from the courthouse indowntown Placerville... 11:30 a.m. Yea, the Pedregal hike. You DO realize we were trespassing. The next time I was out there we saw a mess of rattlesnakes. But that day with you and your son was good. I recall we got to the grinding rocks and some friend of yours was sitting on a boulder just chillin.' You went through a lot of life turmoil since then and seem to have come out in one piece. Good man. Life goes on. Thanks for staying in touch.

  • Mary CarreraJune 19, 2013 - 8:09 am

    I am excited for you as you move on to new adventures and at the same time sad to know that we won't be discussing the interview you're having with one of the many talented musicians you've covered for me over the years. I hope that you will keep in touch and maybe we can work together in some other capacity. Please be sure to touch base with me when you have had plenty of good relaxation and family time. You deserve it!

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 3:08 am

    Mary Carrera's in the house... THEEE Mary Carrera of Carrera productions. The last time I saw you you were on stage being fawned over by rock guitar Gods.... How did your Blues and Brews event go? And you saw that the arts council gave up on coloma blues live... so sad to see it go. It was amazing how you settled in at Three Stages and brought all that boozy smokey blues to a venue designed for a symphony. It's so nice to hear that music without all the booze and smoke. Now, when are you going to push the envelope a little farther.... you know where I'm going... PAPA ROACH AT THREE STAGES. I have Coby's cell phone number if you need it.... Mary, you could pull this off. The Rap-core audience is aging fast.

  • Susan JohnsonJune 19, 2013 - 8:57 am

    My wish is for your happiness. I will be looking over my shoulder for you in every meeting for a long time. You have been a very fair man......thank you.

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 3:11 am

    Hey Susan - You did a great job on Jeff Mitchell Field. Raised all that money in the teeth of the recession. Amazing. I still feel proud every time I drive by it. Maybe you should help out the Veterans with their little project. REmember that crazy guy that let us put the community garden behind his house in the old strawberry patch? Well get this, he ran for supervisor...AND WON.

  • Greg JonesJune 19, 2013 - 9:06 am

    Well done, Mike! Life is a journey. Cheers.

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 3:17 am

    thanks Greg. Glad/sad to see you got a real job. When I first started you took me out for coffee and gave me the incorporation history... told me about the mystery donor that kept it alive... got it on the ballot. that was very cool how you stepped up to help out Norm and John, and I guess Paul and Hal and others by that point. What a chapter in the EDH history book. Then the recession. Don't you just wonder how it would have gone down if El Dorado Hills had become a city?

  • Lynn M RepstadJune 19, 2013 - 9:56 am

    Mike reading this farewell article has,me tear up and smiling at the same time. You are one of the first community figures I met, when I starting working in El Dorado Hills (13 years ago). Working with you on many community articles was a true pleasure. I wish you all the best..... El Dorado Hills was very lucky to have you. Enjoy this time in your life you earned it.....xo

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 3:20 am

    Hey Lynn - how about the horror movie filmed on your driveway... Not many people can claim that. Thanks for the invitation... I guess. Did the movie ever come out? I remember lots of chains and fake blood. Congrats on the success of 36 handles. And BI Design is amazing. A target destination in the region. Keep it up.

  • NANCY MCCUISTONJune 19, 2013 - 10:34 am

    good luck with your next venture (or should I say adventure). Love to you both

  • Mike RobertsJune 21, 2013 - 3:28 am

    Nancy? My cousin-in-law once removed on my mother's side? What are you doing in this room? Checking up on your flakey California kin folk? I'll summarize it for you in one sentence. I'm turning into my father, minus the Smirnoff.... Quitting a job I was born to do... and can't even say why, other than to echo Greg's sentiment above. Michele and I are going on a motorcycle ride to the canyonlands of Utah next week. After that I'm going to do something else. Definitely. Thanks one last time for being such a spectacular Friend of Martha. You were the only one that came out to see her you know.... but for what it's worth, several of your fellow respondents met her while she was here. Do you want her mink coat? Does anyone else? Gott bless you all.

  • Bill TobinJune 21, 2013 - 11:08 am

    Thanks for so many great stories through the years! Best wishes on your next endeavor and just you can enjoy community events without having to write 500 words about them afterwards.

  • Susan LairdJune 22, 2013 - 9:37 pm

    Best wishes, Mike. You have a great, expansive writing talent. I hope you consider writing a memoir, or a book at least. You've made good friends, and I know that you will pop up again in the future. Good people are impossible to keep down. :) God bless!

  • Georgianne KnightJune 24, 2013 - 1:16 pm

    I have so appreciated your excellent reporting Mike & the great opportunity to get to know you as a such a fine gentleman. Best wishes in this next chapter of your life. Georgi

  • Rick BlockJuly 26, 2013 - 12:11 pm

    Mike, I haven't known you as long or as community connected as I've learned that you are, but I believe I have known a passionate and compassionate person that I would encourage to be a little less self-effacing and a little more accepting of your own humble contributions to the simplest of folks and those who seem the least connected and enfranchised. You are a marvel. Let us/me know what you next dreams are about. Rick



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