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Adventure Out


Adventure Out

By Drew Nichols

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I had never worked on a campaign before and my knowledge of a campaign was limited to what I saw on the television. I spent a year studying German culture in southern Germany and did advocacy work for the United Nations Association. I had just finished an internship with state Senator Mike McGuire, recently completed a double major study in Political Science and in German Cultural Studies at Sonoma State University, and it was clear if I wanted a career in public service, I needed be involved in my of the community. 

It was mid May and I had no idea what I was doing with my professional development. I had my day job that paid the bills, but I was yearning for something more, something that would bring me joy, and give me a stronger sense of purpose. Since I live in the district, I had followed the 5th District Supervisor campaign during most the primary. After all, I would be voting on one of these five candidates. However, I was drawn to Lynda Hopkins’ idea for inclusiveness, and her awareness to the challenges outside the talking points. Specifically, what ultimately became the deciding point to support her was her awareness to the legalization of marijuana. I remember reading on The Press Democrat after a forum where the legalization question was discussed. I remember the article discussing the legalization of marijuana. The article discussed how Hopkins made awareness to those who need marijuana for medical purposes. My father passed away from a six-year battle from cancer and I knew medicinal marijuana helped him during this battle. If we are going to legalize, then we need to be aware of the potential risks for those who rely on it – we can’t simply legalize just to tax hoping the tax revenue will solve the challenges facing out community.

So I reached out to the campaign to ask for a lawn sign. Little did I know how this simple question, “How do I get a lawn sign?” opened the door that led me to join her campaign.

A week before the primary, I walked neighborhoods in southwest Santa Rosa. In all honesty, I have never felt so nervous, so timid. I grew up in the countryside, unincorporated area of Santa Rosa. Never had my home been canvassed by any organization and now I was knocking on doors myself. I didn’t feel confident in myself, I wasn’t confident in my speaking ability, and I felt I wasn’t doing much service to the campaign; however, I was still new and still learning. I remember one voter having a conversation with me about his canvassing experience when he graduated from university, and his words gave me a stronger sense of confidence to move forward. Still, I had no idea what I was doing, nor the significance of the work I was doing for the community.

When the general election campaign season kicked off, I still had no idea what I getting myself into. Phone banking? More canvassing? This early? The election was still four months out, and I questioned everything. On the first phone bank, I had never felt so scared and nervous to call voters. I felt I was going to annoy them, that they were going to be rude and verbally vicious, and that I was taking things personally. In a two-hour period, I managed 40 phone calls, shaking as I dialed the phone number and praying I would get the answering machine. But I pushed myself every day to make myself more confident, more comfortable.

I found excitement when Lynda hosted the Town Hall series. Listening to her speak to the community showed me her dedication to our community. I took notes on the input from the community, and typed them for the campaign. Having lived in southwest Santa Rosa, working in Cotati, and studying in Rohnert Park, I was unaware of the real challenges facing my community. I lived in a bubble. I was one of the “tourists” who would visit the Russian River and took day trips to Bodega Bay. Little did I know concrete challenges existed. I learned what the “low-flow” idea truly meant, and the consequences of vacation rentals. I realized how difficult it is to secure housing at an affordable price. I saw how dangerous the rural roads have become. I understood the concerns my grandmother, who owns three homes on the property I live on, expressed when talking about building permits and maintenance. I realized how much the tourism industry affected the community and what potential was in store.

This furthered my commitment to talk to voters about what truly affects them. I allowed myself to let go of my predisposed notions and actively listen to their concerns. I was apart of a campaign that is dedicated to listening to community and I spent six years studying this. This became important to me. 

One of my favorite quotes I learned from Dr. Brené Brown comes from President Theodore Roosevelt. It’s known as “The Man in the Arena,” a quote President Obama spoke at the DNC Convention. It says, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” This goes to everyone who has run for public office and I admire those who have. I learned a lot in the past six months, and I am proud to have been apart of this grassroots campaign. My confidence grew as I pushed myself to talk and listen to voters. My skin thickened when I was faced with those who did not support our campaign and I learned it was not me these individuals were talking to. My inspiration grew as I watched Lynda at the Town Halls and at events and I found security when expressing my thoughts and ideas. I am privileged to have the opportunity to be apart of her team. 

As I look forward, I see a promising future. In the wake of the election of Donald Trump, I am committed to getting my voice out into the community, to fight for the values I share with many others. Looking back to last May, I did not see myself where I am at right now. In the last six months, I adventured out. I stepped out of my comfort zone, and into a whole new arena. I have never felt so confident in myself, in my community, and in the world around me. Together, we made progress. Together, we stood for what we believe in. Together, we will come closer to finding solutions to the challenges facing us, both in the community and to ourselves.