ALUMNI: Dan Wolk

Dan Wolk, a 1995 alumnus of Davis High, poses in front of his state assembly sign with his two daughters.
Dan Wolk, a 1995 alumnus of Davis High, poses in front of his State Assembly sign with his two daughters.

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two stories profiling State Assembly candidates from Davis. The profile of candidate Don Saylor is available here.

By Jeanne Kim,
BlueDevilHUB.com Editor–

With blue eyes and a warm smile, young Dan Wolk could be seen around Davis taking part in all sorts of activities. He rode his bike to the Farmers Market, played Little League and took part in the Nutcracker. He was a Davis kid, and still loves the city today.

Jump forward a few years, and Wolk, Davis’ mayor and a Davis High alumnus, is campaigning for the California State Assembly. The pursuit of a career in politics was greatly influenced by Wolk’s family from a young age.

“The teachers did a lot for me, and every time I think that I’m giving back to the community or I’m doing something for the community, I think about what they do on a daily basis and I think that I’m just not doing enough.” ~Dan Wolk 

With a California State Senator for a mother and a father who is a Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the UC Davis School of Law, dinner conversations were often about politics and public service. Those dinner conversations about involvement in the community interested Wolk, and so did the opportunities and programs offered at DHS.

“Dan is truly a Davis kid, a Davis product,” said Lois Wolk, mother of Dan. “He grew up enjoying and benefiting from the extraordinary number of services and activities that are provided by the city and the wonderful school district and terrific high school.”

While at DHS, Dan Wolk was a Friendship Day Facilitator and an avid member of the DHS music program, playing in the band and singing in the Madrigals and Jazz Choir.

“The teachers did a lot for me,” Dan Wolk said, “and every time I think that I’m giving back to the community or I’m doing something for the community, I think about what they do on a daily basis and I think that I’m just not doing enough.”

English teacher Eleanor Neagley, one of the many teachers who had a positive impact on Dan Wolk, says the mayor was an incredible student who had a passion to learn and discuss.

“He has always had an incredible work ethic,” Neagley said. “He did the assignments but he always also didn’t just do them to do them, but did them thoughtfully and always went the extra mile. […] He was a standout in class discussion and was an active participant.”

Although nearly 20 years have passed since he was a student at DHS, Dan Wolk made a lasting impression on Neagley and is among the students who give her a sense of fulfillment as a teacher; he never forgot her or her class.

“When he gave his speech accepting the mayor job, after I swore him in, parts of his speech had to do with American Lit,” Neagley recalled. “He was quoting from ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ Tom Joad, talking about the people and what they deserve and how he’d like to be the kind of leader who would be there for all the people. And I thought ‘Wow, that’s great’, and if I can turn out kids that can remember as far back as Dan was remembering–a class he took when he was 16 or 17–well that’s pretty cool that it had that kind of an impact and that it continues to have that kind of impact.”

After graduating from DHS in 1995, Dan Wolk attended Stanford and then went to UC Berkeley for law school. He was offered a job in the Bay Area, but he says something about staying there didn’t feel right.

“I found myself really missing this area,” he said. “I missed it in terms of its geography and its people and I just missed the area, but also I felt a really strong desire to give back to a community that had given me so much.”

I think you will be the most successful if you can listen and agree or disagree in a civil manner, and Dan has that ability.” ~Lois Wolk

Dan Wolk returned to Davis and was elected to the City Council, where he has served since 2011, continuing to focus on making Davis a better community.

“Although the high schooler Dan Wolk was ready to get out of town, the adult Dan Wolk is very happy to be here and be raising his family here,” he said. “Regardless of what I do ultimately in politics, Davis will be a key part of who I am.”

Dan Wolk now hopes to advocate for the needs of more people across the state, prompting him to campaign for State Assembly in 2013 and again this year. He says that his motivation to run for the Assembly comes from his desire to continue to serve everyone in the community, and to better represent the lives of the younger generation.

Having experienced a doubling of tuition during his years at Berkeley and graduating with student loans, Dan Wolk said he understands the challenges faced by the younger generation.”

“And if students wanted to approach me and say, ‘This is crazy; what is happening?’ whether it is a high school issue or another issue, I would definitely listen and advocate for it because I really do believe that we need a new generation of leadership in Sacramento who really understands a lot of the challenges that I think that our generation is really feeling,” Dan Wolk said.

Lois Wolk agrees with the need for younger leadership.

“Most of our leadership is old and I think it’s time for the next generation to move in and bring their experience,” she said. “There’s an urgency to solving these problems that he feels that my generation no longer has.”

She believes that his job as the mayor of Davis has benefited him in ways that make him a stronger candidate for the State Assembly position.

“I think he has done a very good job as mayor, and it’s not an easy job,” Lois Wolk said. “One of the wonderful things about Davis and one of the challenges of Davis is that every single person has a strong point of view about everything. […] I think you will be the most successful if you can listen and agree or disagree in a civil manner, and Dan has that ability.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *