A Reflective Legislator
Healdsburg Tribune 1/22/2015
Dr. Jim Wood doesn’t seem like a person who would pursue higher office because he’s not. When asked when he first wanted to go after a second career in politics he replied that he never did and that it’s just one of those things in a person’s life that happens – that it just evolved organically. As he takes his seat he is one of the state’s 28 new members of California’s Assembly.
Jim, who has two brothers, grew up in Orange County and got his degree in biology from U. C. Riverside where he met his wife, Jane. They got married during Jim’s first year of dental school in Loma Linda. Jim’s first practice was in Modesto but he and Jane would visit Sonoma County and they fell in love with the place. In 1987, he put out some feelers and found a dental practice to buy in Cloverdale which Jane managed the entire time they owned the practice. Jim, 54, moved to Healdsburg in 1989, has been married for 31 years, and has one son, Alex, who is a freshman at the University of Santa Clara. He and Jane sold the Cloverdale dental practice in 2013.
Jim’ first foray into politics was on the Cloverdale General Plan Advisory Committee in 1991. In 2002 he served on the Healdsburg Planning Commission and was first elected to the Healdsburg City Council in 2006. As Jim got deeper and deeper into public service he found that he not only liked the challenge of finding solutions to complex problems but also the interaction with the diverse groups of people which comprise local communities. His ability to both reflect on an issue and at the same time concerning himself with the well-being of people probably comes from years of looking into a patient’s mouth to solve a problem. As a dentist, he said, you can’t choose who will walk into your office.
The 2nd Assembly district is nested within the 2nd Senate district but is still one of the largest districts in the state. Extending from the middle of Santa Rosa to the Oregon border the area includes the north half of Sonoma County and all of Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity and Del Norte counties. With about 480,000 people in his district it’s about half the size of Mike McGuire’s Senate district.
Jim sees the biggest challenges (he doesn’t like to call it an agenda) in his district as employment, water, healthcare, education and the environment. Even if the state isn’t going into a historically prolonged drought north coast water management is now seen as a high priority. Jim sees storage and conservation as his prime focal points and not sending more nor-Cal water to southern California at the expense of our fisheries, our fishing industry and agriculture. Accordingly, one of his first appointments was as Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture. He is also on the Natural Resources Standing Committee.
Employment and education are linked in that with the collapse of the logging industry people have to be retrained to work in other industries. To that end the community colleges need to be strengthened to offer more vocational and internet generating careers which is why getting broadband into every nook and cranny of his district is one of his highest priorities. With the Emerald Triangle being smack in the middle of his district the marijuana industry is being looked at closely. Its legalization could bring jobs but that has to be weighed against the damage its cultivation is doing to the environment, the outdoor recreation industries and the adolescent healthcare issues that come with it. But he says nothing substantial is going to happen one way or the other until the feds make a firm decision on the issue.
As the only professional healthcare provider in the Assembly, Jim is especially focused on strengthening healthcare in his district’s many rural communities and, as such, was appointed to the Health Committee. He is also on the Business and Professions Committee because of his experience as a small businesses owner in a regulated industry. He learned the state legislative and political process while working with the California Dental Association in Sacramento.
He feels that the district’s hospitals will have to adopt the Healdsburg Community Hospital’s model of specialization, like stroke care or joint replacement, in association with other facilities like the U.C. Davis Med Center. He also thinks that Obamacare has been reasonably successful but containing costs is still a big challenge and it will probably take ten years until the program is fully effective. It’s ironic that Jim expects to work closely with the Assembly’s Black and Latino caucuses because a lot of rural community issues, such as healthcare and education, are similar to those in the inner cities.
Although they are both highly intelligent and effective Mike McGuire’s personality is more a “force of nature” whereas Jim’s personality seems more contemplative and reflective which is probably comes from his medical training. Whatever, they both are dedicated, have a proven tract recorded of successfully working together and Healdsburg should be proud that we have them and that they are working for us on the bigger picture.