Susan Talamantes Eggman was first elected to the Assembly as part of this term’s large Freshman class. She is a Democrat who has lived in the Stockton area for much of her life.
Did you grow up in the San Joaquin Valley?
I was born in the Bay Area but we moved to Turlock when I was young and that is where I went to school and graduated from high school. We are 4th generation beekeepers and also have 40 acres of almonds. It is a working ranch and it is how we made our living. I grew up working on the ranch and remember picking weeds and extracting honey from hives.
I note on your biography that you served in the military after high school. How did that come about?
I always wanted to serve in the military as it is part of my belief in public service. I served for four years in the U.S. Army as a medic from 1979 to 1983.
When you returned, you went to college. Explain your education and career choice?
Again I wanted to be involved in public service. That was very important to me. I went to Cal State Stanislaus where I received an undergraduate degree in psychology and master’s in social work. I am very proud of the fact that I took no student loans but rather worked my way through college, working mostly in drug and alcohol counseling. Consequently, after I graduated there was no “first” job but rather just a continuation of what I was doing in drug and alcohol counseling as a mental health provider and medical social workers. (She then received her master’s from Portland State University.) I eventually moved into hospice work and I have been a professor at Sacramento State for 10 years.
How did you get involved in politics?
I was involved in the community and when the situation arose I ran for City Council in Stockton. I consider it a continuation of my desire to be involved in public service. I was elected in 2006 and reelected in 2010. I am a professor with 10 years of experience and I wasn’t thinking about running for the Assembly but when redistricting occurred and San Joaquin County was put into one district, the opportunity came up. At that point the question wasn’t why would I run but why wouldn’t I run. I couldn’t come up with any good reasons.
Do you have a specific issue on the top of your agenda?
I have never been a single issue person. My job is to bring some common sense to the debate no matter what the issue is.
How do you describe yourself politically?
On social issues I am a progressive. On business issues I see myself as a pragmatic progressive. I am really interested in serving the community in the best way I can. I am probably more in the middle on the political spectrum and I think I can work with people on both sides of the aisle. In fact I have already teamed up with the other two women veterans in the Assembly, both Republicans. The three of us are sponsoring a joint resolution and two of us are co-sponsoring legislation on women’s health issues.
The California Legislature is often described as a dysfunctional unit. What are your first impressions?
I am very heartened by the Freshman class. There are 39 of us and everyone seems ready to work to solve some of our state’s problems. Hopefully the Democrats and Republicans can work together.
Commercial agriculture believes it is a bit underrepresented in the Legislature. What is your view of the industry and its challenges in Sacramento?
Agriculture is very important to this state. It is one of the ways we define ourselves. I am very aware of that and understand it is important to preserve agriculture. This morning I have already had a meeting with the Lodi wine people. As far as the Legislature is concerned, it’s a matter of education. Educating legislators is very important.
One key issue to the agriculture industry is immigration reform. What is your position on this issue?
I am very happy to see that the federal government is finally addressing this issue. I am very much in favor of immigration reform.
Water is another very important issue to agriculture. What is your position on the governor’s plan to build tunnels to divert water around the Delta?
I support part of the governor’s plan but not all of it. I don’t support the tunnel concept. I think we need to find another way. I don’t think you can address the Delta problem by diverting water around it. But I do think we have a lot of areas of agreement and we need to work on the 10 percent where we don’t agree. We need to fix the levies. The bond issue may require some reworking. I do think we need new storage and we need to talk about that before we talk about conveyance.
What is in your political future?
I plan to learn my job and stay in the Assembly doing the best I can as long as my constituents will have me. I am on leave from my job as a professor at Sacramento State and so I can always go back to that when I leave politics.
Our members and many of your constituents produce the best agricultural products in the world. Do you consume our products?
Anybody who knows me will tell you I love to cook and I am all about getting things from the farm to the table. For example, I only eat asparagus when it’s locally grown and in-season. I will not eat asparagus from Mexico. I love to grill and I love to prepare very fresh food right from the farm. Cooking is my creative outlet. I use fresh ingredients and I never use a recipe. I love theme meals. Recently I made an entire dinner around limes, including a lime pudding cake.
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