Not too many people in Galt are close to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or a key player for a state legislator.
But 1996 Galt High School graduate Nick Garcia, 27, has gone from the Future Farmers of America to the governor's office. While his career has him rubbing elbows with some of the top figures in the state's political arena, Garcia also does local work for the Galt District Chamber of Commerce's political action committee, Businesses United for Good Government, and other local causes.
After Schwarzenegger took office in late 2003, Garcia traveled with him and First Lady Maria Shriver for 18 months. That included trips to the Republican National Convention in New York City in 2004, President Bush's inauguration in 2005 and Schwarzenegger's trip to Austria the same year.
"It was like bringing the hometown hero home," Garcia said, recalling the trip to Austria while sipping some coffee recently at Starbucks in Lodi.
In 2003, Garcia did public affairs work in the Gray Davis recall campaign, organized a rally for Schwarzenegger and served as the communications coordinator for the new governor's swearing-in ceremony.
Locally, Garcia worked extensively on Measure B, the $29 million Galt High bond measure last year, and he is lending his expertise as BUGG lobbies the Galt City Council on the new general plan the city plans to adopt later this year.
Garcia's life wasn't always as exciting as it is today. Growing up in Galt and Acampo, Garcia attended Valley Oaks Elementary School before attending Galt High. His main focus growing up was raising pigs and participating in the Galt FFA. He became so successful that he became treasurer of the state FFA during his senior year.
He attended California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, intending to become an agriculture teacher. But while doing some work for the national FFA, Garcia changed his career direction to communications and journalism.
Garcia hasn't forgotten about Galt or his roots with the FFA.
"There is no class that trains in leadership better than the FFA," he said. "Ag education allows hands-on training. They learn how to set goals and be critical thinkers."
After graduating from Cal Poly, Garcia worked for a Sacramento public relations firm and then worked on the committee to recall Davis as governor.
"A lot of people believe that government doesn't work for us," Garcia said. "We need to make it work for us."
And he thinks the world of the governor and his wife.
"They are two of the most caring, thoughtful forward-thinking people I've ever met in my life," Garcia said. "Here's a guy who gave up $30 million a movie."
Garcia's marriage prompted him to leave the governor's staff a year ago to take a position with State Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria.
"Being on the road all the time and a newlywed is not a good combination," Garcia said.
He still hits the road for Maldonado, who represents California's central coast. Garcia handles Maldonado's agriculture committee, public relations and some of the senator's legislation.
"He's a hard worker, he's very dedicated and gives it all his heart," Maldonado said.
"One of his big accomplishments is making sure that agriculture gets a fair shake here in Sacramento," Maldonado said. "That's Important to me as a farmer. We make a great team."
Ann Ullrich, a former Galt High School board member and now chairwoman of the Galt Chamber, has known Garcia for several years.
"I saw his leadership skills grow from FFA," Ullrich said. "He's been very successful for 27 years old. He is always honest and level-headed."
Garcia lives in Elk Grove with his wife, Sharlene, but he plans to return to Galt, where his parents, Jimmy and Tina Garcia live. He may seek elective office, either on the City Council or school board.
"There is no one out there who loves Galt more than I do."
First published: Friday, April 21, 2006