District 5 - Meet Jaron
Where did you grow up?
For much of my childhood, I lived in the District 5 area, from a fifth wheel in Marble Quarry RV park outside Columbia to Willow Street in Jamestown. I’m a born and raised local, and the son of two loving parents. One a professional musician and entertainer (Lori Brandon) and the other a 30-year local small businessman (Ron Brandon) of Live Oak Music in east Sonora.
Do you play music then?
I mean, give me three chords . . . but really I am more of a live music fan.
What’s your background?
After Sonora Union High School, I attended the University of California, Merced, graduating with a B.A. degree in Government and Political Science. During this time, I started at the grass roots doing voter reg and was soon draw into student leadership including the Associated students and several internships for both parties in the State Assembly, State Senate, and Congress. We even created an organization that supported local student candidates called Bobcats United, networking together with other students to oppose tuition hikes. After graduation, I later worked for a Bay Area tech startup doing news editorial work and became the service’s editor-in-chief for the U.S. But, I just wasn’t happy, so like many other local kids, I returned. After working in our music shop for a year considering running my own business, I was bit by the service bug.
Why did you run?
I ran because I refuse to be a bystander to our challenges. Local struggling with housing, seeing people move away for better jobs, feeling disconnected with government. The most frustrating part was learning these issues didn’t just happen to us -- they were the result of choices by our leaders and too many people were left in the dark. So, I chose to take an enormous risk and run for office to put these existential issues on the agenda, fight for working people, bring in new ideas and perspectives, and be the most transparent, communicative elected official we’ve ever had, and to find those new, third-options for a better future here.
Do you enjoy it?
Yes, but that’s not really the right question. Public service is difficult -- you have to make tough decisions, advocate to experts, field upset people and Facebook trolls, work on a team with different philosophies, and as a public figure, it can take over a lot of your life. But in working for you and our community, I feel a great sense of purpose and with all my heart, I believe in the work.
What issues are most important to you?
Simply put, housing, jobs, and government transparency. Ran to do it, and sticking to it.
But that’s not all you work on, right?
Right. The above are my pillars, but it’s not to say these are our only major challenges. Fire service, water rights, public safety, homelessness, illegal dumping just to name a few. That’s simply how it is as as a local representative; things come up, good and bad, and you have to deal with it and they’re each opportunities to solve a problem and do it better. But, synthesizing likely tens of thousands of conversations, those three are the most fundamental issues. People need the opportunity to work well, have a roof, raise a family, and know what’s going on. And when we get that done, we create the long-term revenue we need to fix many other issues.
What’s it like being a younger representative?
Well, it’s what I know. Initially, when elected, I was the youngest Supervisor serving in California and while that doesn’t make me qualified on its own, it is a valuable perspective to have in these spaces that are often dominated by older generations. And, proudly, I do so with a different approach. I do get mistaken for an intern quite often, however.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get involved?
You don’t need decades of experience to make a difference. Experience is just a resource. All too often, people sell themselves short because they don’t know everything or hold themselves to impossible standards. Don’t buy into it. Even an expert in one area is going to be challenged in others. Here’s what I think it takes:
- Find a place to get involved, big or small. The biggest thing is getting started.
- Know your why and find a good problem to solve.
- Don’t be afraid to step/speak up
- Ask the right questions
- Communicate openly and honestly
- Stay strong in your values
- Humble yourself (remember your why)
- Learn and relearn everything voraciously
- Finally, put the effort in.
Yellow has to be your favorite color.
It’s not, actually. Yellow and black became my colors because they represent youth, energy, and then seriousness. It says “Warning, this needs your attention, it’s important” and also “I’m not the status quo choice.” To get folks to see these local issues on a level of importance like what we see with the Presidential elections and state ballot measures, it takes breaking people’s expectations a bit from the ol’ red and blue; fitting as an independent elected official. Since then, it’s become an invitation for people to recognize me at events and come tell me what’s on their mind, and not hopefully feel weird or intimidated about it. That’s why I’ve always got those ugly yellow hats on. It’s an invitation.
What do you do outside work?
I’m a little notorious amongst my friends for being bad at hobbies. However, I do enjoy hiking our beautiful area like out at Table Mountain, rollerblading, jujitsu, doing community service (I actually really enjoy the trash cleanups!), and binge-watching TV shows, especially science fiction. My happiest place is probably brainstorming and learning about new stuff.