It’s been a busy month for Congressman Jay Obernolte, who represents California’s largest district -- the 8th District.
Obernolte, 51, has held 13 town hall meetings with residents in Bishop, Mammoth, Victorville, Adelanto, Apple Valley, Yucca Valley, Twentynine Palms, Hesperia, Big Bear Lake, Needles, Yucaipa and Barstow.
Each meeting averaged 40 people in attendance, with Obernolte sometimes holding two or three meetings in one day.
On Friday, Sept. 10, Obernolte held a town hall meeting in Yucaipa and one at noon at the Events Center at San Manuel Village in Highland.
One Highland resident, Maury Yzaguirre, a retired educator, was the sole attendee, along with a Highland Community News reporter.
Obernolte was not fazed by the informal meeting with Yzaguirre, who spoke passionately about education in her one-on-one conversation with the congressman elected in 2020 to succeed Congressman Paul Cook, who served eight years.
Obernolte took office in January 2021.
Yzaguirre had a lot to say about education and Common Core.
“I’m an educator,” she said. “I have always been an educator. It’s been my passion.’’
Yzaguirre voiced her opinions about California’s educational standards and was pretty blunt about her feelings.
Obernolte listened to her and then encouraged her to run for school board because people like her need to be involved in elected office.
Obernolte said he did not feel confident enough when he was younger to run for any type of office when he began living in Big Bear Lake.
He grew up in Fresno and met his wife, Heather, when they were in high school.
Obernolte attended California Institute of Technology and got a job with Nintendo, writing video games. He attended UCLA for graduate school and received his doctorate at California Baptist University in Riverside.
He owns Far Sight Studios in Big Bear Lake and has 29 employees.
Becoming an elected official was not something he sought, but 17 years as a pilot and flight instructor gave him the confidence to run for a seat on the Big Bear City Airport District.
He won and spent five years on the board.
Obernolte was elected to the Big Bear Lake City Council and served for four years, including two years as mayor.
He represented the 33rd Congressional District for six years as an assemblyman before being elected to Congress.
Obernolte said that it does help to have name identification when running for an elected office. Questions arise such as “Have they heard of you?’’ and having a good reputation will help.
Obernolte said that the best government is a diverse government.
‘I think it’s very clear that government and legislative bodies function best when they have a broad cross section of life,” he said.
It is a grueling schedule for Obernolte and his family. He and Heather have been married for 25 years and have two sons, Hale, 22, and Troy, 20.
Heather Obernolte is the one who keeps her husband grounded. She is very supportive, but very honest with him about mistakes he makes at an event or at a town hall meeting.
Obernolte had a tough fight as one of 13 candidates for the seat he holds now. He said that Paul Cook encouraged him to run for the 8th District.
There are a variety of issues he is working on for the entire district, including stopping reckless government spending, improving wildfire prevention, fighting large-scale illegal marijuana grows, and preventing future cyber-hacks, according to one of his flyers.
At each town hall meeting, he has tailored his talks to issues important in the immediate community.
As for Highland, there has been $2 million spent on infrastructure improvements along Victoria Avenue.
Obernolte also is very passionate about helping the veterans, who comprise a large part of his district.
Many veterans were exposed to toxins that have left them with life-long respiratory problems and it can be very difficult to get the hospitals to listen to their concerns or treat them for their illness.
Obernolte wants to sponsor a bill that will give veterans free access to the national parks.
Purple Heart veterans would get free access for life, Obernolte said.
He said that changes have to be made at the local level to get anything done. Obernolte said he does not believe there is transparency on a national level when it comes to being honest with citizens about the important issues.