By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – A few weeks ago, long time County Supervisor Jim Provenza announced he would not seek reelection in 2024. Shortly thereafter it was announced that there were two candidates to replace Provenza, Deputy Supervisor Sheila Allen and Antonio DeLoera-Brust.
“I think it’s time for a new generation of Davisites kids who grew up here to have our voices heard, to have our views on the policies that have impacted us as kids and that will impact us as we look to start our own families and continue this town going forward,” DeLoera-Brust, 27, told the Vanguard in an interview recently.
The community has changed quite a bit since DeLoera-Brust was growing up here. At that time his parents, coming from Mexico, were able to buy a house in Davis for $220,000.
“But that town that my parents came to where they could, for a pretty reasonable price, put a down payment, buy a house, put their kids through good public schools, that’s slipping out of reach,” he said. “I hear from a ton of kids that I grew up with who are now all over the place, and many of whom are looking to start their own families, and we just can’t afford to come home.”
In some ways, this figures to be a contrast of styles and experience. While DeLoera-Brust won’t reach 28 until June, Sheila Allen has spent 30 years in community service, including two terms on the school board, founding of Yolo Health Aging, and the last year as Deputy Supervisor to Jim Provenza.
At the same time, DeLoera-Brust has his own compelling story, having graduated from Davis High in 2013, heading on to Loyola Marymount to study film and Chicano Studies.
He spoke of growing up, “seeing the poverty out at the Madison Migrant Center, the food insecurity in some of the rural parts of Yolo County.”
It was during college as a senior that Trump got elected to president.
He spent a year in New York City as a journalist, reporting on South America, the Colombian Drug War and the Venezuelan refugee crisis.
“You’re writing these things and no one really cares, or not enough people are reading it. At least that’s how I felt,” he said At that point, he said, “I decided to just go into politics full-time.”
He went to DC, as a Congressional Hispanic Institute Public Policy Fellow, which he said “is basically a glorified internship program, but very crucially it pays.”
He explained, “I was able to afford to move to DC and see if I could make it as a Hill staffer, basically. I was lucky to be placed with, uh, Congressman Joaquin Castro, who represents San Antonio, Texas.”
When Julian Castro, Joaquin’s brother, ran for President in 2020, Antonio moved to Texas and was policy manager on Julian Castro’s campaign. He also served on the Warren Campaign in a policy role before she dropped out.
At that point it was March 2020, the start of the pandemic.
He moved back home where he was asked by then-Supervisor Don Saylor to come work for the county and do Latino outreach.
His work for the county culminated in helping to plan and run the Farmworker Vaccination Campaign.
“We actually had over 85 percent of our farm workers vaccinated by April 2021,” he said.
He explained that, during the wildfires in 116-degree heat and seeing this experience on the ground, he was able to take that experience still working as a staffer for Congressman Castro and he helped to develop “legislation around the citizenship for essential workers.”
He said, “That was based in part on my experience here in Yolo County and lasted until the Biden administration won.”
DeLoera-Brust explained, “I was asked if I would come back to DC and serve in the Biden administration at the State Department.” But he decided to stay here until the vaccination campaign was done.
That was completed in May 2021, and he went back to DC as Special Assistant to Secretary Blinken at the State Department until July 2022.
He said, “I’m a Mexican-American kid from Yolo County, uh, which by, you know, 20% of Yolo County was in poverty, half of the farm workers in Yolo County, this agricultural land are themselves food insecure. They feed the world, but they can’t feed their own families. And I did have a moment of just, what am I doing here?”
He ended up concluding that perhaps anyone could be working for the State Department, representing the US well abroad, but he said, “I think I’m one of the only people who can really go home and advocate for some of these communities.”
He’s now back in the area working as an Organizer for the United Farm Workers.
In terms of issues, DeLoera-Brust said, “I think the number one issue in our community is housing. The lack of affordable housing is really warping our town.”
He said, “I am sympathetic to people who say they don’t want our town to change. I don’t want this town to change either.” But he said, “The refusal to grow at any cost is changing our town. It’s already warping it into this thing that we weren’t.”
He said, “We’re in real danger of sleepwalking into a place that’s basically a town of very affluent retirees, transient students, unhoused folks … and service workers, mostly Latino, who are coming in from West Sac or Woodland, to do all the things that we need to do to keep this town running, mowing the lawns, cleaning the, the mopping, the floors, cooking in the, in the kitchens.”
He said, “We really need to change courses and grow up, grow out, and really invest in affordable housing.”
He added, “I think poverty and hunger are two emergencies that should not be acceptable in our county.”
Like most of his generation, he sees climate change as another huge issue.
DeLoera-Brust explained, “I think with all the stuff that the Biden administration has done at the federal level, that’s going to unlock so much potential for local government to make some really transformative investments in renewable energy and green infrastructure.”
His top five issues are housing, food insecurity, poverty, labor, and climate change.