Working Class Values
My name is Chris Skyhawk and I am running for 5th District Supervisor of Mendocino County. I was born on September 16, 1962, the oldest of three children of a working class family in Rochester, N.Y. Perhaps the most influential event in my early life was when my infant brother contracted spinal meningitis and nearly died. He was left with a life-long disability that proved very challenging. My parents Len and Lucretia were often faced with severe financial struggles in the face of medical bills. The social and educational structures of that time did not yet support the rights of handicapped individuals.
My parents gave me an early tutorial in political activism. They became prominent advocates in the fight to bring equal educational opportunities to handicapped children and were instrumental in forming political coalitions that brought changes to educational policies in New York State.
My family was also active with church groups that assisted foster families, conducted food drives, and built housing for Vietnamese refugees.
As a teenager and young man I worked jobs including retail, farming, food service, and industrial plants and put myself through college. I studied Political Science and Psychology, eventually earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the State University of New York at Geneseo in 1984.
I always felt called to explore the great lands of our nation. After graduating I spent a period of time hitchhiking around the Western United States. In 1985 I settled in Sonoma County where I worked in construction, was a waiter and bartender, and was a Supervisor at a group home for emotionally traumatized boys. With my adopted son I moved to the Mendocino Coast in 1993 where I have lived ever since. I currently reside in Albion with my wife Samantha and our 9-year-old twin daughters Kiara and Inyo.
Environmental Protection and Community Organizing
Upon arrival in Mendocino County I became involved in ocean and forest environmental protection efforts. Working with local, state, and national groups I was part of coalitions that have been thus far successful at stopping offshore oil drilling. I was also active with myriad local conservation groups in attempts to establish sustainable forestry practices.
I have always felt a deep conviction that the natural resources of Mendocino County belong to the people of Mendocino County. Our resources should not be extracted for the short-term benefit of outside corporations at the long-term expense of our County.
I became a Public Affairs programmer for KZYX/Z local public radio where I hosted The Ecology Hour and Universal Perspectives for 15 years. Through this work we helped educate and inform the community on numerous environmental, social, and political issues. It was a vehicle to bring out the voices of people who may not have had another platform. I would often host discussions between opposing sides.
Working with Public Radio was one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. It satisfied my passion for seeing communities come together. I always felt that healthy discussion and constructive debate are good for our social fabric and our democracy.
As a community organizer, I helped found the Albion Community Awareness Network, produced numerous benefit events, was an organizer and leader with the Mendocino Circle of Men, and a contributor to a number of local campaigns. I currently serve on the Coastal Housing Action Team with the Healthy Mendocino Project.
Mental Health and Human Services Professional Background
I have worked a variety Social Service jobs. I have been a Youth Worker for the Mendocino County Youth Project, Coastal Program Manager for the Mendocino Coast Children’s Fund and First 5 Mendocino, and am a trained Parent Educator in the Positive Parenting Program, Men, Infants and Children, and Parenting Apart workshops for the Mendocino County courts. I also founded Passage to Manhood, through which I mentor young men and counsel families.
I have also worked as a High School Sports Official, Singer/Songwriter, Performing Storyteller, carpenter, micro lumber miller, massage therapist, and commercial seaweed harvester. I am a graduate of the Leadership Mendocino program.
After joining the Albion Little River Fire Protection District Auxiliary I organized successful community meetings that enhanced the relationship between the volunteers and the community. I eventually joined the Board of Directors and served a term as President.
It was my first experience as a government official. Working with community leaders I organized a coalition for the campaign to pass Measure M, which was deemed the most equitable way to raise money for fire protection since it assessed large corporate landholders as well as smaller parcel owners. It was the first such Measure in the State of California and passed with 82% approval, stabilizing the District’s budget, allowing us to buy new equipment and invest in infrastructure. I co-authored a District ordinance that would label trees that had been sprayed with herbicide and left dead standing on timber lands a fire danger and a public nuisance. Later, this idea became Measure V, which was passed by 62% of Mendocino County voters. We instituted a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing protocol to assist our firefighters when faced with answering demanding calls. And when the District lost volunteers due to the lack of affordable housing I led the Board to engage the community on the issue.
I felt honored to serve on that Board. I saw the potential that government has to make people’s lives better. It was exciting to solidify the financial outlook and enhance public safety. We also engaged in issues of housing, economic fairness, mental health, and called into question practices by outside economic interests that placed the community in jeopardy.
A Bright Future
We are at major social, economic, and environmental crossroads. Our capacity to thrive will be inexorably linked to our ability to construct coalitions and communities bound by common vision and shared goals. My professional and personal experience has given me extensive insight into the issues, history, and culture of Mendocino County. Working together we can build a bright future for our children and our grandchildren. I would be honored to receive your endorsement and your vote.