Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Rodda Memorial: Remarks by Tony Barcellos

As the junior member of Sen. Rodda's staff at the end of his tenure in the state senate, I had less experience than any of his other aides. However, I was given the opportunity to continue that service in other capacities and to regard him as a mentor and friend. The Rodda family generously asked me to contribute some remarks to Albert's memorial ceremony, which I was pleased and honored to do. What follows is a reconstruction of the sense of my remarks, which were not written down in advance.

The Albert S. Rodda Memorial Ceremony
Comments by Tony Barcellos

Friday, April 23, 2010
Sacramento City College Auditorium

When you have so many of Albert Rodda’s family members, friends, colleagues, students, and admirers in one place, there is no story, joke, or anecdote about the Senator that will be new to everyone. Despite that, I will not hesitate to tell you stories you have heard before.

Albert has taught me well.

I was privileged to work as a legislative assistant for the Senator and I am honored that the family asked me to participate in this memorial ceremony. However, being on the program after Greg Geeting, I knew that he would address some of Albert’s best-known stories and that I would have to be prepared to address others. As Greg observed, Albert was content to let others take credit as long as things got done, which is why so much legislation bears the names of his colleagues although much of the language came from the Senator. Greg also pointed out that Albert was an uncharacteristic legislator, a mild-mannered man who was easy to underestimate.

I point out that Albert was, in this way, a deceptive politician. Those who discounted him because of his meek nature soon discovered their mistake. He was a master of his craft.

In times of loss and transition, our culture has developed a ritual to comfort those who are left behind. We praise the departed and pay tribute to his accomplishments. We honor his character and his honesty. We catalog his kindnesses. We say that he will be missed. These are the things we do.

In Al Rodda’s case, however, all these things are true. He makes it possible for us to say these things in all honesty. That is a rare privilege.

Being a part of Senator Rodda’s team will always be one of the most important things in my life. It was during his final term in the state senate that I joined his legislative staff. The boss would sometimes forget that I was such a new arrival and would ask me if I remembered some issue or another from an earlier legislative session. When I pointed out that I had been on staff for only the last two years of his tenure, the Senator would say, “That’s strange. It seemed much longer.”

However, I had the honor of working for Albert in a number of different capacities. When Jess Unruh persuaded the Senator to join the treasurer’s office to run the Commission on State Finance, I was the only person from the Senator’s capitol staff who was asked to accompany him.

All the others had job offers.

Later, when the boss decided to run for the Los Rios board of trustees, I worked on his campaign. I know that some people—perhaps people in this room—approached Albert and asked him to head a search committee to recruit a candidate for Los Rios Trustee Area 5. “Look, Al,” they told him. “You live in Area 5 and you would be the perfect person to persuade a good candidate to run for the board from that area.” Of course, everyone approached by the Senator responded by saying, “Al, why don’t you run?” I’m sure the people who slyly maneuvered Albert into this position must have been quite proud of themselves, but did they really think they had him fooled?

I imagine he could have said, “Thank you, my friends, for talking me into doing something I was already thinking of doing.”

After the Senator’s smashing victory, I naturally asked him about the possible of a little political patronage for his campaign staff. “When do I get a faculty appointment?” I inquired. Albert was completely deadpan when he replied. “I’m sorry, Tony,” he said, “but we’re going to continue to hire people based on merit.”

It was another four years before I managed to land a position at American River College. The final stage of the hiring process was a one-on-one interview with the college president, Queen Randall. Of course, Albert’s name was included on my application as one of my references. I was happy to have his support, but it would have been impolitic and awkward to make too much of it. I was wondering the Senator’s name would come up and how I would handle it if it did.

I didn’t have long to wonder. No sooner had I been ushered into her office than Dr. Randall came sweeping around from behind her desk to shake my hand and exclaim, “Oh! I see you got to work for Dr. Rodda! Isn’t he the most wonderful man?”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, he is!”

Yes. He was.

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