Dad and Governor Brown

My father died in 2001.  It was a day after the 911 attacks.  As the world was watching what was happening in New York, my family was watching my father slip away after a massive stroke.  I had just given birth to our second daughter the previous month and it seemed my entire world was changing. As a mother, I contemplated our daughter growing up without knowing her “Avo”, in a world that suddenly seemed much more dangerous.  As a journalist, I felt helpless to be involved in the story of 911 because I was dealing with my own life story and as a daughter, I was having a hard time imagining a world without my strong, steady father.  I wanted to talk about his grandchildren with him, I wanted him to see how they grew up and I wanted to talk politics with him.  That was our favorite topic.  I wanted to hear more of his stories.  Knowing how much Dad and I loved to talk politics, Mom gave me several boxes after his death.  The contents of each feel like a conversation with him which always brings me comfort.

Dad was a packrat.  He kept everything and as a result, I have a good collection of political history on several governors...including Jerry Brown. Dad was in a unique position to collect these memories as he spent his entire career protecting governors in California.  He worked the end of Ronald Reagan, Jerry Brown, and George Deukmejian.  He spent hours with these governors, watching their backs, their families, their struggles and making sure they got safely in and out of any situation.  He wasn’t alone of course.  A small but dedicated group of State Police agents traveled with the family as well. These were the men and women I grew up with because as those of you from law enforcement families know, law enforcement usually socializes with other law enforcement.  It is very tight-knit, particularly in specialized units where agents are spending a lot of time with each other.

Eventually, I will put together a documentary on the State Police as I have access to amazing video, interviews, and photos from this agency (which was absorbed into the CHP during the Gov. Wilson era). 

As the inauguration gets underway on Monday, I will be covering it live on KFBK with my partner Dan Mitchinson but I’ll also be thinking about my father.  Governor Brown was a huge part of my life as a child because he was the reason I didn’t see dad very much for 8 years.  Dad described Brown as always on the move, limitless energy and with the annoying habit of giving his agents the slip and sneaking out on his own.  For his austere reputation, Brown was a Hollywood favorite and spent lots of time in LA.  Let's just say my father knew the names of Linda Ronstadt's dogs.   My father’s records include photos of course but also reports he filed, including when a guy with a gun broke into the capitol bill room, advance reports for various events to show ingress and egress, commendation letters from presidents and governors who visited California and curriculum he wrote to teach other agencies how to protect their governors.  He was a smart guy with too much to offer to die when he did.

But...I have these memories and usually, when something big happens politically in our state, I can find something in one of those boxes worth sharing. They aren’t only part of my story of course but part of our state’s story. A new chapter begins on Monday and I’m betting this new governor will have some of that energy and Hollywood appeal of Brown in those early years.

 

Cristina Mendonsa

Cristina Mendonsa

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