Longtime Santa Cruz County resident Adam Spickler, a transgender man, ran for a seat on the seven-member Governing Board of Cabrillo Community College.
Spickler was seeking to replace Gary Reece, 72, a retired Pasatiempo resident who has held the seat for more than two decades. But because he ran unopposed, he has been appointed to the post— becoming the first openly transgender man to hold elected office in the state of California.
Spickler is seeking to replace Gary Reece, 72, a retired Pasatiempo resident who has held the seat for more than two decades and so far, he is running unopposed in the November elections
Spickler, 48, a senior Santa Cruz County analyst and administrator since 2013, is no stranger to electoral politics. He is a longtime local Democratic Party leader and has spent over a decade working for elected officials in the California State Senate and Assembly representing Santa Cruz County and the Central Coast. He has already compiled a long list of endorsements from local and state officials.
Spickler ran through his political resume when speaking with the LA Blade Aug. 14, pointing out that one of his former bosses, California State Senate Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Bill Monning, has been extremely supportive of him. Spickler transitioned during his five years as the Senator’s Senior District Field Representative working on policies and constituent services. Monning—whose district stretches from San Luis Obispo northward along the Central Coast and includes the County and City of Santa Cruz—has publicly praised Spickler.
“Before I took the position with Senator Monning, back in 2007 I worked as a field representative for Assemblyman John Laird, who is openly gay,” he said. “He (Laird) had also been an elected member of the Cabrillo Board of Trustees.”
Laird and Mark Leno were the first two openly gay men to serve in the California legislature. Laird is currently Secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency.
Serving on the Cabrillo board is important to Spickler.
“Since graduating Cabrillo in 2002, I’ve got an associate’s degree in child development. I’ve always wanted to give back in a number of ways. I think that what I experienced (at Cabrillo College) helped shaped me,” he said. “The way I look at things, I believe students of all ages, backgrounds and education levels should have access to Cabrillo College’s world-class academic and occupational learning environment.”
Additionally, he said, “after 10 years as a Democratic Party member in Santa Cruz, I think that people have seen that I listen and that I’m a bridge builder who gets things done.”
In his non-political life, Spickler administers government contracts for county housing, child welfare, development, employment and human services. He’s also been a volunteer commissioner with the Santa Cruz County Equality Opportunity Office for the past four years and currently helps out the local GLBT Alliance group.
“I think that the best part of being so involved is that Santa Cruz and the county is a trans-rich community—and allies in the queer community are awesome. Plus, I have been able to be a role model, especially for LGBTQ youth,” he said.
Spickler said he would advocate for marginalized students who may be juggling school and work, as he did during his college days at Cabrillo. He is concerned those students are falling lower on the state’s list of priorities as lawmakers and officials seek to improve two-year graduation and transfer rates.
“I am also very interested on finding ways to continue to fund California’s Promise Community College program signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in October last year,” he said.
Spickler said he’s not trying to make history, but he did acknowledge that it is exciting to be part of a greater trend in politics that has recently seen trans candidates Danica Roem elected to the Virginia statehouse in 2017 and Lisa Middleton elected to the Palm Springs City Council in 2018, as well as the Aug. 14 Democratic primary victory in Vermont of Christine Hallquist—who made history as the first transgender person in America to win a gubernatorial nomination from a major political party.
“I’ve chosen to be a bridge builder where possible in my community based on my trans identity, based on my queer identity,” Spickler said. “It’s helped me access things that other people have the privilege of just having in life: being comfortable in a space, being able to make other people at ease with me so we get to the business of whatever the business is and get beyond identity politics.”
“Only two openly transgender women and no openly transgender men — have been elected to office in California to date,” Elliot Imse, Senior Director of Communications at the LGBTQ Victory Fund told the LA Blade. Imse added that there was at least one other openly transgender man, Martin Rawlings-Fein, running in a California race. Rawlings-Fein is hopeful to secure a seat on the school board for the City of San Francisco.
Reporting by The Los Angeles Times, the staff of the LA Blade, and wire service reports.