My family came to Petaluma to build a better life. My mother is from the Midwest, and my father is from the East Coast, which meant we didn’t have extended family to rely on here. Thankfully, growing up in South Sonoma County, I was blessed with the surrogate family that comes with living in a neighborly community. With a farm behind our house, and a neighborhood filled with people willing to lend a hand, we found a community and a support network.
My parents worked hard, saved, and sacrificed to be able to move to Petaluma, and because of this community they were able to catch their breath, catch up, and thrive here.
Because of our circumstances, I wasn’t able to attend preschool and by the time I started kindergarten here I was behind. The school was ill equipped to help, and we didn’t yet know that I had a learning disability which compounded the problem. But I had the privilege of loving parents who wouldn’t give up, with the means to do something about it, and a community that came to our aid every time things got to be too much. My parents stretched every dollar and sent me to private school to get the support I needed. Meanwhile, my mother volunteered at school every day, and sat next to me for countless hours as I did homework each night to make sure I had the foundation needed to succeed. By the time I was in middle school, I had not only caught up but I was excelling.
Being able to buy a house here gave my father the housing security he needed to find better work, which made it possible for my parents to invest in me and for my mother to dedicate so much time to my education so that I could catch up.
I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for opportunities made possible by living in Petaluma.
But as I got older, I learned how rare this story is. Many friends were themselves struggling to catch up, for reasons from housing to food insecurity and a lack of behavioral health resources. Their parents were working incredibly hard, but could barely get by let alone spend the time to discover and apply for the programs that might have helped.
It was usually up to my friends to figure it out, and I remembered what it was like to feel that help was always out of reach. Taking a lead from my mother, I would park myself right next to them and we’d dig in to see what we could do on our own. I became known as “The Forms Guy” to many of my friends, because we were constantly applying and appealing to many of the programs people need just to catch a break and catch their breath.
I took these experiences with me as I began college. It was because of them that I have dedicated my life to public service, and service to the community whose help got me to where I am today. And it was through this work that I met my now-wife, Iliana, who shares this commitment to community service.
Today, people know me because I show up for them, whether as a friend or as a case worker, helping them to navigate wildfire recovery, public health crises, housing instability, and broken processes. I’ve worked at all levels of government, most recently for Congressman Huffman and now at the California State Senate, while also serving on Petaluma’s Planning Commission, Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, and Transit Advisory Committee.
We have a brief window of opportunity here in South Sonoma County, because it’s no longer a place where people can catch their breath. The opportunities that my parents had are now not available to us. People are struggling, and crises are mounting with increasing frequency due to reactive leadership. But we can change that if we get off of our back foot and take today’s challenges head on. Now.
I have the experience and record to do what’s needed in this moment, not just as a Supervisor, but as someone who shows up and gets everyone engaged in being a part of the solution.
I will work hard every day to make sure South Sonoma County is a place where you, your parents, and your kids can build a life.
Blake M. Hooper