Guest View: Farewell to the retiring Congressman Farr

Congressman Sam Farr, representing California's 20th District, speaks with Hollister locals Jesse Sanchez and Kristi Jones at the Yes on Measure J campaign headquarters on Fifth Street in November 2014.

I first met Sam Farr in 2002 when I was the lead reporter for the now dead Pinnacle weekly, based in Hollister. I was doing a story on yet another election year for our elected representatives and wannabe representatives.
When he sauntered into our offices I was struck by what an affable guy Congressman Farr was. Our publisher and I talked with him for a long time, chatting about his Peace Corps experience in 1964, the near 30 years Farr had already accrued in federal, state and local politics, and his love of photography, among many subjects, as if he were an old friend come home. Indeed, he was that, and yet he would go on to be our U.S. Congressman in the now do-nothing U.S. Congress for another 14 years.
Farr was the first (and I believe only) U.S. elected leader who actually walked up and down the toxic orange San Carlos Creek in the far southeast end of our county–yeah, the same one that was spewing deadly methyl-mercury into the San Francisco Bay for 150 years, a putrid legacy leftover from the New Idria Mercury Mine’s heyday since 1856. Years later, in 2011, the federal EPA finally came up the hill and started fixing the massive manmade catastrophe… in no small part thanks to Congressman Farr.
After more than two decades of representing San Benito, Monterey, southern Santa Cruz and southern Santa Clara counties, Farr is retiring, and it is hard to imagine what his replacement will be like. This is the guy who recently turned the Pinnacles National Monument into an actual national park, after years of pushing the Republican-heavy Congress into doing the right thing. With the new designation come many more federal protections, and a welcome boon in tourism we are now starting to reap.
If I were to expound on his accomplishments as the defender and political leader of the tri-county area, I would wax endless and tedious. The list of Farr achievements is that long.
For myself and my political leanings, Sam has been the ideal politician. I value his activism as an environmentalist for this district, as a land preservationist, an advocate for agriculture and farmers as well as farm workers, an animal rights champion, a fighter against the nation’s out-of-control gun violence, a pro-voters’ rights spokesman, a co-chair of the Congressional Oceans Caucus, and a member of the Organic Caucus and the Unexploded Ordinance Caucus.
For liberals, he has been the down-to-Earth man who made our immediate world, and the world-at-large, a better place. I realize some Republicans might not agree with me, yet there are plenty of Republicans proud to call him a longtime friend and colleague in Washington D.C.
And he is a really cool, nice guy! I know this because I got to talk with him many, many times. He was always available to me by phone or email, and to any other constituent who wanted his ear, even years after The Pinnacle ended, along with my tenure there. He held many “Town Hall Meetings” in the supes’ chambers, answering local voters’ questions, years before congressional representatives got wise to the realization that they had to listen to the people who actually elected them.
So join me in attending a local farewell party for Sam Farr at San Juan Oaks Golf Club on May 5, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Everyone is invited. Yeah, even you Republicans and Teabaggers, as long as you show a modicum of gratitude and respect for what this accomplished man has done for us. Oh, and you got to pay $20.16 (that’s not a typo, that’s a tribute to Sam’s last full year in office). You’ll rub elbows with people who appreciate what Sam has done over 40-plus years; there will be no-host cocktails (that means you have to pay for your own drinks) and appetizers. But most importantly of all, Sam will be there. So be there or be square.
Tickets can be had in advance or bought at the door. For more information about the reception for Congressman Sam Farr, call (831) 637-2201.

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