Nearly a third of the 2015-2016 California Legislature are first-term members. In this occasional series, The Bee introduces you to Sacramento’s newest lawmakers.
Bill Dodd’s California roots run deeper than the grape vines on the Napa Valley farm where he grew up.
The Republican-turned-Democrat from Napa was raised on a 10-acre farm that grew walnuts and a sauvignon vert varietal of grapes that his family sold to the now-mighty Trinchero winemaking family. The farm was not, in Dodd’s telling, a cash cow.
“As my dad put it, it was just enough to pay the taxes,” Dodd said, “but I think it was something that gave me the values behind agriculture in terms of how hard it was.”
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That farm has faded into Dodd family history, having been sold years ago. Also part of the Assembly member’s family history is the legacy of the Murphys, ancestors on Dodd’s mother’s side who traveled to California in one of the first covered wagon trains to cross the Sierras.
One Murphy was the first chair of the fledgling California Democratic Party, Dodd said, and two served in the then part-time Legislature. Another became an early mayor of San Jose. They helped found the city of Sunnyvale.
But if anything it was wine, not that illustrious family history, that pushed Dodd into entering public life by running for the Napa County Board of Supervisors. At the turn of the century environmentalists and grape-growers were clashing over vines sprouting in protected hills, and Dodd “felt like I could bridge that gap.”
“Ultimately what we did is we set standards that were probably the toughest standards in the industry,” Dodd said. “I wanted to make sure that what we did was best for Napa County, good for our environment – clean air, clean water, not overuse our resources – and the preservation with agriculture was also part of that.”
Call Jeremy B. White, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5543.
Education: Bachelor’s degree, business administration, California State University, Chico, 1978
Career: Napa County Board of Supervisors; Metropolitan Transportation Commission; General Manager, U.S. Filter; president and CEO, Diversified Water System
Assembly committees: Agriculture; Business and Professions; Rules; Transportation; Water, Parks and Wildlife