I turned 18 the first year that 18-year-olds were allowed to vote. I voted that year (for McGovern for President) and have voted in every election since. There have been elections where I agonized over which candidate deserved my support. There have also been elections where I was wholly behind a candidate.
When it comes to the District 7 Board of Supervisors race this year, it’s been easy for me to say, “I wholeheartedly support Joel Engardio.” He is a good, decent man and will represent everyone in the district well.
In many ways, Joel’s life is the classic American success story. He is a self-made man who has succeeded through sheer hard work and determination. He was raised by his mother and grandmother in Saginaw, Mich., a factory town that pumped out cars for General Motors. Neither woman had much money, education or connections. But they taught him the importance of using your resources smartly and not wasting money.
As a working journalist, Joel developed the investigative skills to sort through complicated issues and find the most important points and, sometimes, ferret out lies and corruption. His work held government accountable and helped people understand those who were different from themselves. He earned a Masters in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, as he began to turn his passion for helping others toward running for office.
Unlike many in San Francisco, Joel does not see a seat on the Board of Supervisors as the first step up the ladder of public office. He won’t spend his time on the board seeking other political jobs. Joel sees a board seat as a way to help make San Francisco work for its residents.
I first met Joel when he was considering running for the open seat in District 7 when Sean Elsbernd was termed out in 2012. We discussed the issues facing The City and, over time, became good friends.
The person I have come to know is a straight-shooter. He won’t tell you one thing, then tell someone else something different. You’ll know where he stands on issues.
But he will always listen to other viewpoints. After all, no single political view — progressive, moderate or conservative — has all the answers to the myriad complex issues we face. Joel will look beyond ideology to find solutions that really work.
He won’t try to subvert other people — including political opponents — to accomplish his goals. Joel treats everyone — those who agree with him, those who disagree and those running against him — with respect. I admire that about him.
He’s a socially liberal but fiscally responsible moderate, very much like many in District 7. He will bring his investigative skills to City Hall and its $9.6 billion budget. If programs don’t work or duplicate others, they shouldn’t be continued year after year.
Joel moved to San Francisco 18 years ago and he understands what’s going on in our city as only someone who’s been present, active and involved since then can. He will bring “common sense” to the board, something it often, sadly, lacks.
After hearing from all the candidates for the District 7 seat, both the Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner gave their sole endorsements to Joel. The Examiner said, “Engardio’s sound judgment, commitment to transparency in government and sense of fairness will serve The City and his district well.”
And, no, I didn’t tell Joel or anyone in his campaign that I was writing this column.
As I’ve watched the presidential election degenerate into debates about who lies more, it’s been hard to stay positive about voting. But then I think of Joel, a candidate who views public service as a higher calling, who tempers fiscal responsibility with true compassion for those less fortunate, and who will work harder than anyone else for his district and city, and I feel reassured and hopeful again.
I wrote this column because I wanted people to know the person that I’ve come to know over the last five years. Joel Engardio is a good, decent man. And he’ll make a terrific supervisor.
Sally Stephens is an animal, park and neighborhood activist who lives in the West of Twin Peaks area.