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Efren Carrillo... The Good Deeds

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Efren Carrillo... Recognizing His Good Deeds for Our Community

By Debra A. Newby 

It has often perplexed me why, for some, it is easier to criticize than to compliment. Certainly, our brains and our hearts are wired naturally to seek the higher ground. To discover and express joy. To be grateful for our accomplishments. To convert our common failings and missteps into a roadmap to future successes and self-discovery. 

Efren with a constituentSo now, as we say goodbye to our Fifth District Supervisor, Efren Carrillo, please my dear readers, take just a few moments to walk down memory lane with me. If you pause and take the high road, that path is illuminated with all the good deeds that Efren did for our community.

The Measure of One’s Worth

If one insists on measuring success by dollars, we need only look at the $40 million that Efren helped spearhead for a new mental health facility at the County Jail and the $1.3 million grant that he orchestrated for the new fish ladder and viewing gallery at Wohler collectors. Or how about the $10 million dollar loan that funded the effort that became Sonoma Clean Power and his last grand stroke during his final weeks – the initiative to commit the Board of Supervisors to fund the over $2 million needed to complete Andy’s Unity Park in Moorland

Efren’s drive and stamina is relentless. Susan Upchurch, our Fifth District Director for the past eight years (and we are lucky to have her for another four years, along with our new 5th District Supervisor, Lynda Hopkins) believes that Efren’s stamina derives from his training as a competitive athlete. “Efren thrived in martial arts and he even competed internationally – representing the US in Korea. He loved politics and the opportunity to lead,” Susan comments. “He was very goal-oriented and hard working. I had to schedule him to go on vacation, and even then, he would come back to the office days early.” 

If one insists on measuring success by the imprints made on the environment, we need only look at perhaps the most important “feather in his cap”…Sonoma Clean Power. Insiders know that it would not have happened without his leadership. A close second would be Preservation Ranch – the largest conservation project in Sonoma County at over 20,000 acres. Efren also led the fight to keep Sonoma Coast parking areas free to the public. Oh, and the next time you find yourself hiking along the California Coastal Trail, particularly the trail that connects Salmon Creek to Bodega Bay, look for Efren’s footprints. He was there before you, securing the deal to expand and connect hiking trails and open space to honor Mother Earth.

Community Activism is a Family Tradition

Involvement in the community and community activism was in Efren’s blood from the get-go. He grew up hearing “stories” about his grandfather who was an active politician in Mexico. His father, Efren Carrillo Sr., humbly took on the role as a “community activist” as he helped give the Roseland and Moorland communities a voice with county and state politicians. The voice first started in a community church as a whisper, then grew with tone and maturity, securing street lights for the community and interfacing with law enforcement to reduce gang violence. Efren learned by watching his father, but even as a young lad, Efren at times took on a leadership role. “Efren was always trying to do his best,” says his Dad, Efren Senior. “He started Tae-Kwan-Do when he was 6 or 7 years old, and continued through high school and college. As a young boy, he would be pushing us to be on time for his practice. He did not want to be late!” 

Politics are Not for the Thin-Skinned 

Politics are not for the thin-skinned. It takes a certain disposition to tolerate and survive the back-lashing and deal-making. Undoubtedly, Efren’s martial arts training prepared his mind for the necessary discipline and balance that is needed to simply get things done for the Fifth District and Sonoma County as a whole. One of my best friends from law school, Rosalee Morris, is an eighth-degree black-belt in TKD, and I recall with clarity the first time I saw her compete in the “Forms”. It was like watching a butterfly dance, with its wings precisely cutting through the air – powerful, graceful, and balanced.  

Perhaps it was that same grace and balance that enabled Efren to keep our community safe and healthy, as he supported funding for the new firehouse in Annapolis, contributed permit fees for the new firehouse in Bodega (and initiated a large grant to fund Bodega Bay Fire’s ambulance), supported a skate park in Monte Rio, and expanded the Sebastopol Laguna Skate Park. One of his last official acts was the presentation of a new river rescue boat to the Monte Rio Fire Protection District. Steve Baxman was thrilled. Efren’s imprint even reaches to the most remote and northern area of Sonoma County, The Sea Ranch, where he helped preserve an affordable housing project and supported the launch of a new fire district.

Connecting with Constituents

But it takes more than an exceptional mind and stamina to represent the diverse interests of the Fifth District. One has to “connect” to constituents…and after living in the West County for a slight 15 years, I can tell you that we are a motley crew of outspoken and informed individualists, with diverse and sometimes competing needs. “Efren was very gifted at connecting with people,” Susan Upchurch recalls. “ He was a ‘Man of the People’, always there to help. Anytime we would go to a community event, whether it was for 6 people or 600, Efren would end up in the kitchen, speaking to staff, trying to find out what their concerns and needs were.”  

Efren understood people. He particularly understood the value of community activism, and the Power of One inspiring, engaging, and then empowering many. He worked tirelessly, along with his colleague, Supervisor Shirley Zane, and Mayor Sawyer of Santa Rosa, to successfully close the 20-year effort of Santa Rosa’s annexation of the Roseland District. He helped broker private funding for the Graton Labor Center to purchase property and created a work plan to assist other communities with Labor Center “best practices”. He even wove a slice of music to the colorful fabric of Guerneville, as he supported the Russian River Rotary Club summer concert series to bring activity to the town square. 

When I asked Efren’s Dad what his son’s proudest accomplishment was in his mind, he paused for a moment. “Certainly, being a Supervisor. He did a lot of work. He really liked to talk to teens in trouble, and would go to Juvenile Hall to talk to kids and try to turn them around”. Then, after another pause, Efren Senior couldn’t help mention his new 14-month old grandson, Maximiliano. “Efren is enjoying being a Dad. He takes Maximiliano to museums and parks. And he has his other son [now 7 years-old] enrolled in Tae-Kwan-Do.” 

On behalf of the residents of the Fifth District, thank you, Efren Carrillo, for making our community better. Stronger. Safer. You worked tirelessly for the past eight years. Thank you for making a difference…and for demonstrating the courage and persistence to follow your calling.