Don Saylor: a lifetime of public service

 Don Saylor, who is running for the California State Assembly, has been a school board member, a city council member, a mayor and much more. Photo: courtesy
Don Saylor, who is running for the California State Assembly, has been a school board member, a city council member, a mayor and much more. (Courtesy photo:

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two stories profiling State Assembly candidates from Davis. The profile of candidate Dan Wolk is available here.

By Isabella Ainsworth, Staff–

Yolo County Supervisor and California State Assembly candidate Don Saylor has plenty of experience working with the Davis Joint Unified School District from his time as a school board member.

He became a member of the Davis School Board in 1993, and during his terms, oversaw the construction of three schools: Montgomery Elementary, Korematsu Elementary and Harper Junior High School. He also helped start the Da Vinci program and the building of both the Richard Brunelle Performance Hall at Davis High and the gym.

When his two children graduated from DHS, he was able to sign and hand them their high school diplomas.

“I feel pretty proud that as a school board member I signed 1,000 diplomas,” Saylor said.

Saylor does not just have experience in education; he has experience in pretty much everything. The list of organizations he has been involved with is long, and his positions include Davis City Council member, Mayor of Davis, chair of the Yolo Habitat Conservancy board and chair of the Sacramento Area of Governments.

Saylor believes that his experience–more than 40 years in public service and about 20 as a public official–is what makes him different from the other candidates running for the assembly seat.

“There’s a perspective that you get from these experiences,” he said.

Saylor’s career in public service began in his native state of Wyoming, where he grew up in a working-class family. His mother was a just week past her 16th birthday when Saylor was born; for much of his childhood, she was a single mom.

Although Saylor said that his family didn’t think that they were poor, he now realizes that his mom sometimes struggled “mightily.”

“I learned early on that some people got to make the decisions and some people got to suffer the consequences,” he said.

Saylor married at 21 and went to work in the gasfields of a Wyoming boomtown. While there, he heard about an opportunity to intern in the planning department of the city and fell in love with public service.

Saylor returned to the University of Wyoming to finish his degree in History and moved on to a masters program at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, where he was mentored by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. He came to California in 1979 to work for the California legislative analyst’s office, and has stayed here ever since.

Saylor and his wife moved to Davis in 1987 to raise their kids. He lost his first school board bid in 1993 but won two years later.

Saylor has dealt with a myriad of diverse issues during his years of public service.

He worked with young gang members and juvenile delinquents to make them “become more productive, contributing members of society” while at the California Youth Authority.

As the chair of the Sacramento Area of Governments, Saylor helped allocate $38 billion of state money for transportation purposes. He has been instrumental in implementing affordable housing for low-income families, seniors and those with mental health issues.

Many issues dominate Saylor’s campaign for assembly: the environment, transportation, affordable housing and education. He believes in legalizing marijuana, making community college free, renewing Proposition 30–which gives more money to schools–and working for equal pay for women.

Senior Andres de Loera-Brust supports Saylor and thinks the Yolo County Supervisor’s experience makes him one of the best candidates.

“He’s been serving the Davis community for decades now so he really knows the intricacies of all the issues and of government,” de Loera-Brust said.

He remembers talking to Saylor once at a fundraiser for non-profits and being surprised at how open and genuinely happy he was to talk to de Loera-Brust, “a random high schooler.”

The two know each other through Divertedes Imaginaciòn y Artes Bajo el Sol, a summer program at the Madison Migrant Center that de Loera-Brust volunteers at. Saylor has helped fund and organize the program, and also helped fight for health care and education for migrant workers. Saylor’s efforts in areas like these are why de Loera-Brust supports him.

“I have full confidence in Don Saylor to keep us safe and prosperous,” de Loera-Brust said.

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