Husband, father, financial planner and politician – Republican Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee is a man of many faces.
The representative of California’s 33rd Assembly District, which encompasses everything from Lompoc to Paso Robles, and of course San Luis Obispo, drives from his home in San Luis Obispo to Sacramento every Sunday, and back every Thursday. Once in Sacramento, he’s out of the house from 5 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.
“It’s not unusual to have a dozen meetings per day. It’s a very fast-paced job,” Blakeslee said.
Blakeslee has been serving as assemblyman ever since he was elected in 2004 with a 24-point margin of victory. He started out in local politics when he ran for and won a position on the Cuesta College Board of Trustees in 1998. Then he served on the Board of the Central Coast Natural History Association for four years before acting as treasurer for the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce.
After a trip to India with his son, Blakeslee decided to run for assemblyman.
“The kind of poverty, environmental degradation and human condition that I experienced there convinced me that if you have an opportunity to engage in the public arena, you should take that opportunity,” he said.
Since winning, Blakeslee has focused on protecting the environment, particularly in regards to alternative energy. He helped pass several bills focusing on environmental issues of the Central Coast, including a bill to fix the Los Osos sewer problem. He also passed a bill to study how to clean up the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.
“I want a California that has the most advanced energy technology, the most green approach toward solving environmental challenges,” he said.
Andrew Christie, director of the local chapter of the Sierra Club, considers Blakeslee a leader in pushing for alternative energy.
“Sam has been quite forward looking on alternative energy, far more so than your average Republican lawmaker,” he said. “He is really out front in things like solar wind and the nuts and bolts on how to get from where we are to a clean energy economy.”
Though Blakeslee touts his environmental record and points to the fact that he had more bills signed into law last year than any other Republican legislator, 2004 opponent Stewart Jenkins thinks the hoopla is unwarranted.
“Blakeslee has been quite ineffective as an assemblyman. He has pushed through many bills that are cosmetic in nature but get a lot of positive press,” he said.
Jenkins points to the Diablo Canyon Nuclear power bill as an example.
“The bill only commissions a group to study nuclear waste; it doesn’t solve anything,” he said.
On the other hand, even Jenkins admits that Blakeslee’s work with the Los Osos sewage bill was commendable.
But Blakeslee hasn’t limited his focus solely on the environment. As a beneficiary of affordable higher education, he is passionate about making sure it stays that way.
Blakeslee, whose campaign was run with the help of Cal Poly and Cuesta students, is currently working on a budget reform bill he hopes will help keep college affordable.
When asked about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed education cuts, Blakeslee said, “Our challenge is to make those cuts in a way to have the least impact on the classroom. We want to ensure that quality education is attainable and remains affordable.”
Blakeslee himself attended schools in San Luis Obispo since he moved here in 1965 at the age of 10. He graduated from San Luis Obispo High School, then left for Wyoming to build cabins. Five years later, after a failed marriage and a child to care for, Blakeslee returned to San Luis Obispo to attend Cuesta College. And though he left for 20 years upon graduating to pursue a Ph.D. and work at Exxon, he always felt a pull to return.
“I missed the Central Coast terribly. I wanted to reconnect with the community,” he said.
And by running for assemblyman, he feels that he has.