Melyssa Barrett: Welcome to the Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around diversity, inclusion and equity. Each week, I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share, or is actively part of building solutions in this space. Let’s get started.
This week. I get the privilege of talking to someone from my town, a little town called Tracy, California, maybe not so little anymore. William Mutezenberg is an individual who grew up in Tracy, California, called it home for the last 20 years, graduated from Kimball High School, and then went on to UCLA where he worked nonstop for the community by helping children escape homelessness, improving resources for the police and managing health programs for the Central Valley families.
So it’s interesting to me because there’s so many people that leave the city that they grew up in and they go somewhere else and make a significant difference. And I think that’s awesome. But I love when I see folks that grow up here and then they come back here to make change in the city that they lived in. So I know William is going to use the same passion and experience that he has created to fight for Tracy. He is running for city council, but I think you’ll enjoy this conversation that I had with William. So please join me.
I am so excited to have William Mutezenberg with me today, and I’m extremely excited, first of all, because you’re running for city council in my city. But secondly, you have… I mean, you’re such an interesting person to me, not to mention you are so young and running for city council, but also you were raised here and are coming back here to give back to the community, which to me is like, wow, that’s awesome. Because if you’ve lived in Tracy, most of the young people tend to get up and go somewhere else. And so trying to find things to do and build up Tracy in a way that really attracts people, I think, has always been a challenge, since I’ve been here anyway. So I figured I would start by asking you a little bit about yourself and how you got to be who you are today.
William Mutezenberg: Yeah. So thank you so much for having me on, it’s a pleasure. I’m really excited to share my story and my vision for the city of Tracy. I grew up here, my family and I moved from the Bay Area in 2004. And since then I’ve come to love and embrace our community and our region. I’ve always been proud, even when I went to UCLA, for example, of telling people I’m from the Central Valley, I’m from the 209, from Tracy, California.
And I really just see a vision and a potential future for our city and for our region. And I think running for Tracy city council is at the forefront of creating change that’s going to create a sustainable region for all of us. And so having grown up here in Tracy, I went to Discovery charter school. Then I went to Kimball high and. I think at Kimball high, I really… I’ve always had a love for example, history and civics and politics. Even from a young age.
I can remember my first presidential debate was ’04 when it was Bush versus Kerry and watching the TV debates. And since then, it’s kind of just honed a lot more. And then during middle school, during the 07/08 crash and financial recession, we talked a lot about those issues and how politics plays a huge part of our development in our communities and how this impacts all of us. And so since then, I think it really fostered in Kimball with really great social studies teachers who really invested in the students and really cultivated and motivated us to have an interest in these fields. And so from there, I debated what I wanted to do in college. And when I submitted my application for UCLA, I knew political science was the way to go. So that I could learn what it is that is going on in our communities at the national level, local level, state level, and use those skills and resources to come back to our community and help Tracy become a better city.
Not that it already isn’t a great city, but we can always improve and we can always be better. And so-
Melyssa Barrett: Absolutely.
William Mutezenberg: And so while I was at UCLA, I work first at a law firm just as a desk clerk. And I learned that I did not want to become a lawyer, despite everyone telling me I should become a lawyer. But I thought for me, my interest was in the political side, not the legal side. And so from there I thought about where could I branch out? How can I build myself up into a political venture? And so that’s when I came across Equality California, the state’s largest LGBTQ organization, and I saw that they had an internship to help run their social media during the 2016 presidential campaign. And so through that, I decided to apply and they accepted my application.
And so I was very involved in setting up their social media to run their endorsements for all of their candidates, getting out email blasts to all of their supporters, to make sure that we got out the vote as much as possible and supported their endorsed candidates. Obviously we kind of know what happened in 2016. And I think watching the reaction of my friends, especially friends who didn’t live in… Or who weren’t originally from California, they moved here because of school, and they would complain and say how could this have happened? How could Donald Trump have won the presidency? And none of them were political science majors, but as a political science major myself, I saw… I think there were a lot of clues leading towards the presidential election. And the biggest thing I thought was young people like us, we move out for college.
And then we oftentimes stay where we went to college. And so for my friends who came from Florida, for example, or the Midwest, they came out here to California and then they ask how come it’s like this? But if they move to California, they don’t have an interest in their home states anymore. And a lot of people don’t have an interest in their home states. And it was at this time as well that I was experiencing a lot of home sickness for Tracy and wanting to come back a lot. And so when I heard my friends talk about, well, how could this have happened? I said it’s because we leave up those places. We leave those places behind to come to Los Angeles or San Francisco or New York. And while it’s great that we want to experience those moments and develop those skills and build our lives there, I thought for me, the best thing I could do to make a difference in the world would be to actually go back to my hometown and create the change that I want to see in the world, and develop those roots here in Tracy to build the change that I want to see.
And I think so many of us want to see as well. And so with that, I came back in the summer of 2017, I applied for Equality California’s Comcast Institute fellowships. So what they do is they recruit seven, I believe it was seven college students to go and be placed in assembly member or Senator offices in Sacramento. And so I was placed in assembly member, Susan Talamantes Eggman’s office, who is our current Senator now, but she was our assembly member at the time of my fellowship. And so I worked with her in her office and learned a lot about the state legislative process.
I watched the state legislature pass the expansion of the cap and trade program. I watched Susan Eggman push for the Valley Link legislation. That’s now all going to build out this train. That’s going to connect Tracy and the Central Valley and provide a direct connection to BART, which I think it will help remove cars off the road, build greater connection with our region to the Bay Area and help improve our environment and reduce commute times.
And so being able to watch the legislative process really inspired me and said, okay, I think I’m on the right path. I want to come back and provide that voice to Tracy in some way. In 2018 I again got a job with Equality California after graduating from UCLA, where I worked on a variety of legislation to support the LGBTQ community. And from there, I was then recruited to be a legislative assistant for a lobbying firm called Lighthouse Public Affairs, where I helped pass legislation dealing with affordable housing, housing, construction, reproductive rights, expanding maternity access to midwifery care, and a variety of other legislation.
And I also want to emphasize arborists and tree care legislation so that we can reduce the number of wildfires that we’re seeing, especially as it relates to wildfires being caused by our electric utility companies. And so when 2020 came about, I didn’t know if I wanted to run for office then, but I always knew I wanted to run. I wanted to serve and use my experience, my passion and my intellect to help our community out.
And so I saw an opportunity in 2020 to get my name out there by running for Tracy city council. I will admit I was very late to the game, but I put in the work I went out and even though most people probably weren’t doing this, I went out and knocked and actually talked to voters during the pandemic. I made sure to keep my social distance, wear a mask, but I went out and actually talked about it.
I didn’t just put a door hanger on and go to the next house. I would knock on every single door that I could and talk to folks. And whether you were nice to me, mean to me or anything in between, I wanted to hear what people had to say about the community, what they wanted to see the city council address. And also try to correct or inform them of some of the misinformation that they may have experienced, whether it’s from social media or just a lack of education. Because I think a lot of people think the city council has a lot of jurisdiction over what can be done, but the city council’s also very limited by state, the county restrictions, federal restrictions. And so the city council’s not an end all be all. It is one tool out of many that are going to help our community be better. And it’s about how do we navigate those tools and utilize them in the best way that we can see resources come to Tracy and improve the lives of our residents.
Melyssa Barrett: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. And let me give a big shout out to Susan Talamantes Eggman. Because I love her. If you don’t see her showing up, which she always does, you’ll see Xenette or somebody, she makes sure she’s represented wherever we need her. And so-
William Mutezenberg: Absolutely. I’ll give a shout to Xenette. She was my homegirl when I was in interning at Susan’s district office in Stockton. So I did that for a little bit as well and worked in cleaning out their constituent reports.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes. I mean they are… She is a powerhouse. But I think what’s nice is you end up with… She has a talent for bringing in talent clearly.
William Mutezenberg: Yes.
Melyssa Barrett: And so it’s nice to see that you were able to intern and work with her and then go on to have your own career in politics. So that’s an awesome mentorship that you’ve received already.
William Mutezenberg: Absolutely.
Melyssa Barrett: So then what’s next for you? I mean, I know this is running for city council and honestly having been to many city council meetings, I’m assuming across America, it’s not necessarily one of people’s favorite places to be. So maybe you can talk a little bit about… I mean I know in Tracy and it seems like everywhere I go, I’ve been to different states, different cities and everybody’s struggling with like homelessness.
William Mutezenberg: Yes.
Melyssa Barrett: So can you talk a little bit about homelessness and kind of your thoughts on that issue?
William Mutezenberg: Yeah, absolutely. So I think I want to acknowledge that homelessness is a very serious issues for both those experiencing home homelessness, but also for the folks that who these homeless encampments are next to. And so it’s a deterrent, it hinders quality of life. But I think we need to acknowledge that this is a crisis that has not been happening very recently. This has been growing, it has been growing for the last, not just like couple years, but I would say the last 10 years, if not more.
Homelessness is not a new issue, we’ve experienced it since I would probably say since the beginning of civilization. There’s folks that experience homelessness for a variety of reasons, whether they choose to be homeless, they’re forced to be homeless. But I think over the last couple… Maybe over this last decade or so we haven’t seen a proactivity from any level of government, but especially for example, if you’re in Tracy, I think we always saw it as a big city issue, not a small town like ours. But I think we need to acknowledge that Tracy’s not a small town anymore.
We are a city of… We probably already reached 100,000 people already and we’re growing every day. And by growing that means we’re going to experience a lot of these problems that we may see medium size or even larger cities are experiencing. And so that’s why I wanted to run because I see an opportunity for us to, instead of being reactive, we can get ahead of the curve. If we have a council that’s going to work together and with the community, with our local nonprofits and with our other partner agencies at the county, state and federal levels, we can address this head on and get ahead of it before it becomes much worse. And it seems like every day I hear about it getting much worse. And so I’m like, okay, we need to do something now. We need action now. And so I am supportive of the temporary shelter that’s being built out on Arbor Road, but I think we need to do more.
We need to have that permanent supportive housing and having the resources there that are triaged to meet the needs of those residents that are experiencing homelessness. I would say that the biggest support that we could do is allow for the creation of tiny home villages that cater to the needs of specific populations. So for example, if a family experiences homelessness, they’re probably not going to want to stay in a shelter. They need space for their kids, for the parents.
And so having a tiny home community that’s open to families is a great opportunity so that we can get the resources through our social workers, through our nonprofits to provide them the assistance that they need to get out of homelessness and into a more permanent and stable housing. Another example would be youth homelessness. I think that’s an issue that most people kind of ignore.
When we think of homelessness, we think about the folks who are living an encampments or are sleeping on the streets and doing drugs. A lot of people who experience homelessness are also children, whether they’re from very young ages, all the way to when they turn 18 and a little over. And so I want to see how we can address youth homelessness as much as possible so that we can build a dam that stops the flow of chronic homelessness.
Because if we don’t stop homelessness where it starts, whether it’s a kid getting kicked out of their home for being LGBTQ or a foster child that’s grown out of the system and doesn’t have the support and resource that they need to go to college or get their own first job. Then we’re going to see these folks in 20, 30 years experiencing chronic homelessness. And by the time that they’ve experienced homelessness for decades, they’re not going to want to change anymore.
They’ve experienced it all their life. They don’t know anything different. So why should they want to become members of society when society has clearly abandoned them for so long? And so I think we need to address homelessness for those who are currently experiencing it and getting them into the more permanent and stable supportive housing. We need to stop homelessness at the source, whether it’s making sure that there’s resources available for those who are young and are kicked out into homelessness or for families that might have like missed a payment on their homes.
And so whether you live in an apartment or a house and therefore they’re evicted and forced into homelessness, we need to address it across the board and realize it’s not a one size fits all. It’s a spectrum. And each part of the spectrum needs to be addressed in specific ways. And I think we can triage that in many other ways, by bringing in those NGOs, those nonprofit organizations, agencies, and opening up doors for opportunities for qualified students who are looking for that field of social work to come to Tracy or to the Central Valley and be able to find a resources here to allow them to live here as well. And so we’re instead doing a reverse brain dump. Instead, we’re going to take the resources that are in the Bay Area and bring them here to address them head on.
Melyssa Barrett: And you’ve, I know done some work in kind of housing. If I remember correctly, you were very involved in helping people stay in their homes, especially during the pandemic. I mean, what were some of the things that you did? Because I think there was a bill if I remember correctly, correct me if I’m wrong.
William Mutezenberg: I’m not sure I know which bill you’re referring to.
Melyssa Barrett: I think there was a bill. I thought it was… Or is it SB 918, I was thinking about.
William Mutezenberg: Yes. SB 918. Back in 2018, I believe. Yes. So yeah, I worked with a homeless youth coalition to try and secure a homeless youth advocate on the state’s homeless, strategic task force, as well as commit resources and funding to ensure that we are meeting the needs of young people in the state of California who are experiencing homelessness.
And so homelessness, I think, is an important issue to me. I’ve always had fears about experiencing homelessness just on a personal level. I’m thankful that I have not, but I know friends whose families have experienced homelessness. I know friends who have in recent times experienced homelessness, they’ve had to couch surf. They didn’t feel safe at home. And so I think for me, it’s a very personal issue and one that I wanted to see addressed, because again, if we can stop the dam or if we can stop the flow of people entering into chronic homelessness and get them those resources sooner and treat them as people sooner, rather than as an issue that needs to be kicked out out to another community. Then I think we’ll be able to see a reduction in the number of folks experiencing homelessness as much.
And I think that’s a priority for me. And so what I’d love to do is, again, it goes back to triaging based on the community needs. So whether you’re a family experiencing homelessness, youth experiencing homelessness, seniors, experiencing homelessness, we by allowing folks to have a permanent place that they can be at and treated with dignity and kindness. We can get them the services that they can apply for. And then if we’re able to build enough housing to meet the needs of residents then they can find homes and be part of the Tracy society that we all have come to know and love. I don’t think there’s a need to say you weren’t born here in Tracy. You didn’t come from Tracy and because you’re homeless, well we want you out of here. I don’t, I think we should be welcoming to folks who want, who want, and I think that’s an important stressor is who want to make their lives here in Tracy.
Melyssa Barrett: No, and that’s a great point, because I think there’s a lot of cities around that just want to push homeless to another city.
William Mutezenberg: Exactly. And we can play this musical chairs, but that doesn’t solve the issue because eventually those folks are going to come back to us and we’re going to have the same issue again. And so I’d rather have a system where we have a pipeline where if you come to Tracy, all right, we’ll get you through everything. We have partners and we have resources available to get you onto your feet and out into stable jobs and stable housing. That’s what I think most people want. They want a place where they can feel independent, treated with dignity and a place to call their own.
Melyssa Barrett: That’s awesome. So now I know you work for… I think you’re still working at public health advocates.
William Mutezenberg: Yes I am.
Melyssa Barrett: And if I remember correctly, you talk about kind of economic development and I mean healthcare and access is always a challenge with social determinants of health and issues with minorities and discrimination I could go on and on and on. What are some of the things that you see in terms of policies or things that we could do for the community that would create some or eliminate, I should say, some of the gaps that exist today.
William Mutezenberg: Yeah. So I think the first thing I’d love to see is making these resources accessible. And one of the ways that I’d love to see accessibility is to reduce all the language jargon that we see in the services that are provided. For example, my grandma, she receives social security that she’s entitled to. And she’s on Medicare. And when we get those paperwork, my grandma is an immigrant. She cannot read English very well. My mom, who is much more fluent than my grandma still can’t read it because of so much technical jargon that’s on these paperworks. And so I think making these papers accessible, these documents accessible. I think we can still have them whatever is legally required on these documents, but making sure it’s done in an accessible way.
So saying “Hey, your payments are here. This is what we need from you. This is what you need from us.” And here’s all the current terms and conditions and all that, yada, yada, yada. But accessibility, not just through language access, but language presentation is very important to reduce those barriers. Because people get confused and they miss their payments or they miss a certain meeting that they have to go to. And all of a sudden then the state or the county tacks on fines. And that creates burdens on folks that may not ha have the needs to pay for them or have the time and availability to meet these requirements.
And so I think improving accessibility can also include what we’re doing right now, a virtual meeting. And so allowing social workers or county agencies to conduct interviews virtually to meet where residents are, I think is also very important.
For example, my grandma lives in Union City, but all the offices for Alameda county might be in Hayward or Oakland. And that could be a far drive for a lot of folks, especially if you are sick, if you’re working multiple jobs, you don’t have time to sit and Bay Area traffic or to hop on BART and travel all the way to another city to get the resources that you are entitled to by law. And so how can we make these resources much more accessible and easy to understand and making the process easier to understand, I think is the most important thing. And so what I’d love to do for the city of Tracy is one space that I’d really love to see improve is making our website user friendly. We have a great website, but it’s not user friendly.
I think it’s much more better than it was before, but we have a lot of ways to go before I think we have a user friendly website. And so when people go to the city of Tracy website, they should be able to find the services that need. How do I pay for my utility bills? How do I start a business here in the city of Tracy? And making the process easy and easy to find so that folks can go through the process seamlessly, reduce the time that’s spent on applications, going through the paperwork, and allowing those permits to get out so that folks can start building the dreams that they want to do and invest in the city of Tracy.
Melyssa Barrett: That’s awesome. I love it. I love listening to folks talk about kind of bringing life up to date. Because I think a lot of times when you think about city government, well government in general, there’s a lot of… There’s so much technology and things that have come about to make things more efficient. And yet you still have to pick up the phone and call and tell the utility… I mean, I have to call for garbage and say, “I have an extra bag.” I mean there’s so much manual stuff associated with how you do business. So I think it’s awesome. It’d be great. Now that you’re a social media wizard. We can do lots of things.
William Mutezenberg: Yeah, exactly. And so I know that the city is looking to hire a chief IT officer. And so I think help allowing the IT officer to build out a strong team to build to more greatly interconnect our apps, our website. And I think bringing in the talent that we’re looking for. I think that’s where internship opportunities for college students that are going into computer science or for program and software engineering. We can recruit those folks and have those internships here in Tracy.
And I think that’s kind of ties into like the workforce development housing that many people I’ve spoken to have talked about. When I think folks think about workforce development, they equate it as low income, but I see it as an opportunity to recruit talent. So for example, imagine if we’re able to have a workforce development housing for college students who have an internship with the city of Tracy to build out our website, and have the opportunity to build out their skills and give resources to the city to improve our services.
So it’s about thinking outside the box in a way that makes sense and reaches populations that all of us have in contact. I think most of us either have been college students or have children that are college students. Imagine how great it’d be to see that they can afford an apartment in Tracy and be able to work on improving the city website or building an app that the city of Tracy can use to improve the services that we’re doing. And it doesn’t have to just be to computer science.
We can have marketing internships where students can go out and actually conduct surveys with residents to see what they’re looking for on their website or how often would they use an app if it was available and getting that information. And helping us conduct those workshops that we need to do as a public entity.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. And we had Rodesia Ransom on here a while ago and of course she now is working for Congressman Harder. And shout out to Rodesia.
William Mutezenberg: Absolutely.
Melyssa Barrett: She’s doing work. But one of the things that she talked about was… And she was on and we talked quite a bit about diversity and inclusion and the city itself focusing on diversity and inclusion, kind of its current state. And so are there other initiatives that you see? If I remember correctly, this was the first year we actually flew the pride flag and the-
William Mutezenberg: Second year.
Melyssa Barrett: But it was the first year-
William Mutezenberg: Oh, sorry. Third year actually. Sorry, I got it all mixed up. It was the second year we were flying it for the whole month of June.
Melyssa Barrett: Okay. And then I know it was the first time they gave a resolution for black history month was this year. And so I can see Mary Young is definitely trying to make sure she’s focusing on things within the city. Are there other initiatives that you see that we could be doing? And certainly Rodesia talked a lot about holding city accountable for making progress on diversity and inclusion.
William Mutezenberg: Yeah, absolutely. So I know that Rodesia and council member Ariola both worked hard to pass the racial equity initiative back in 2020 in the wake of the protests that we were seeing in the summer. And I really support such endeavors to make sure that the city of Tracy’s welcoming. That our city staff is treating all residents and visitors to the city in an equitable manner. And so I think building on the equity initiative, making sure that our police departments, or actually no, sorry, not just our police department, but all our departments are receiving cultural competency training. We have multiple cultures here in Tracy from our wonderful Sikh community, to our Filipino community, to our Latino communities. And so each of them have their own needs and have their own cultures within our broader fabric of Tracy.
William Mutezenberg: And so making sure that our city staff is respectful, meeting the needs of these residents and maybe they’re not able to, in that moment provide the resources or expertise because of language barrier, for example. So making sure that we have a translator available or scheduling interviews, so that folks feel comfortable to provide information or to get the resources that they are looking for. And making sure that residents of the city of Tracy are treated fairly regardless of your ethnic, nationality origins, or which cities you came from or your income levels or your gender identity. So I think just making sure that the city of Tracy treats people as people and we do all that we can to meet that.
Melyssa Barrett: That’s fantastic. Let’s pause for a moment. We’ll be right back. I know you went to Kimball here and-
William Mutezenberg: Go Jaguars.
Melyssa Barrett: We’ve given all kinds of shouts out today. But so what do you think… I mean, in terms of the… Kimball is not an old school either. I mean, it’s fairly new. So you had to be probably one of the first classes to go through there, I imagine.
William Mutezenberg: I was the third official graduating class and the second full term class. Because the first graduating class was only there for three years, I believe they were there from their sophomore years to their senior years. And then I was there for my freshman year, through my senior year.
Melyssa Barrett: So what are your peers telling you now that you… Because I mean, I’m trying to understand how you went from high school at Kimball. You obviously worked with Susan Talamantes Eggman and then you said I’m going to run for city council not once but twice. And so what is going through your mind? Because I think there’s a lot of people that look at the political landscape and go, “Yeah, I don’t want to participate actively in running.” And so what can you tell people about if they even have the slightest inkling and they want to run. What has that been like and how did you even come to that thought process?
William Mutezenberg: Yeah. So I would tell young people that we aren’t limited because of our age to run. Anyone, I think, if you have the passion, the education, the experience and or the… Because I don’t think just because you lack one, you shouldn’t run. And, or the will to learn. I think you should be able, you should think about running. But just know that it’s a process that is going to take a lot of your bandwidth and a lot of your time and a lot of your energy as a young person, we oftentimes feel… And I’m guilty of it myself… Or not guilty, but it’s something I experience myself is like I want to go out, I want to socialize with friends. I want to be able to go to bars with friends at night or not have to worry about, oh, am I going to miss a city council meeting for this and that?
But seeing the political climate right now, we can either sit back and let things continue as they are, or we can stand up and actually run for office and try to make a difference and take our issues and take our ideas and run with them and build the engagement that we want to see with the community. And so what I’m really proud of with my race back in 2020 as well as now, is that we’re recruiting young people who are have an interest, even if they have a little inkling into politics. And encouraging them to volunteer with our campaign. One thing I’m really proud of too, is that I think I might be the only candidate to have actually offered stipends to all of my interns who had an active role in the campaign.
And so that’s something I’m going to make sure to try and do again, is making sure that we support the next generation and that they feel like their work is going to be justly compensated. Obviously I can’t give them the salary of Apple or Google, but I can at least give them something to feel like that their work is being valued in a monetary compensation. In addition to that, I take all of their considerations, all of their ideas. And I’m not saying no, but I say, okay, this is why this could work. This is why maybe this wouldn’t work, but let’s tweak it. Let’s make sure that… I try to make sure that my team is part of the process. They’re not just there to knock door or be in my place. But I actually feel like they have an active role.
This is not just about my campaign. Or the campaign I see is not just about me getting elected. It’s about how do we lift up the next generation to feel like they have the tools, the experience to want to pursue their own endeavors. And also through that, lifting up the community and saying that the community has an active role in what we do as a council. And that’s how I’m taking this campaign. It’s not just I’m going to get in there and I’m going to solve all of our problems. I’m going to be frank.
I’m not going to solve all your I, but what I will bring to the table is that passion and that energy to say, I will speak to you whether you’re on the opposite side of the aisle, whether you disagree with me. Or if you do agree with me and you have differences of how we get to that end goal. What matters is I’m willing to sit here and say I want to listen to you and I’ll say, this is where I think we can make progress. This is where I disagree with you.
And having that honesty that I think a lot of people don’t feel that they trust with their political representatives, whether they’re in Congress, president all the way down to school board members. I want to have that open conversation with folks. And if that means I’m not playing the game of politics right, then that’s fine with me. Because at the end of the day, I want to build a Tracy that is united, that is working towards improving our community, improving our environment. And improving the resources and opportunities that we have. And I think by being a young candidate, I have that charisma that I think gets lost as you get older. But I hope that by running now and continuing to embrace that I can not lose that as I get older.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. Well, hopefully you don’t lose the charisma. I think it’s the pessimism and all of that comes in where it’s like-
William Mutezenberg: And I understand the pessimism, it’s totally… I’ve felt moments of disillusionment where I’m like, why am I working so hard when I can just enjoy my life and go travel and do what other young kids are doing. But I really see a potential to make a difference for our community, for our region. And I’m invested in that. I’ve always believed from those times when I would sit in the Altamonte traffic and I’d just be like, “I’m 19. Why am I sitting in three hour traffic?” And I now it’s probably four hour traffic. So for me, I’ve experienced a lot of the issues that we in Tracy have experienced, collectively. And so I don’t think just because I’m not a homeowner or I don’t have a business that I don’t know, the pains that folks are experiencing. And I’m going to say, I don’t know the pains like you do.
Those are your pains. Those are your struggles. But what I will say is I understand where you’re coming from. You have a validity in your anger or frustration. And my goal is to make sure that the city council is responding as best as it can with the resources and limitations that it has to meet those needs. And so, as a council member, I’d love to host meetings with residents, go out into the community as much as possible and show that I want to work for you all. I want to work for us so that we can build again, that Tracy, that we all have envisioned.
Melyssa Barrett: I love that because yes, I was one of those in three hours of traffic headed to Bay Area. Thankfully I’m a remote worker now, but I know there are lots of people that are still traveling the Altamonte and spending lots of time in the car. I once had a colleague try to calculate how many years I have spent in the car. And I just was like, please don’t do that.
William Mutezenberg: Oh no.
Melyssa Barrett: I don’t even want to know. So it’s wonderful to hear about things like Valley Link and what will help when it comes to getting around? Because I think we keep expanding the freeway and all of that. And yet you still spend three hours in the car.
William Mutezenberg: So yeah, I kind of want to just point out that freeway expansion sounds nice on paper, but what it does is create something called induced demand where, because there’s now more freeway space or road space people are like, well, I’m going to go use my car now. And because they build a habit of now using their car more, once the traffic gets back to where it was pre-freeway expansion, you’re like, well, they just need to expand the freeway again. And you’re stuck in this loop. And so I’d love to see us, try to think outside the box and move out of that. I’m not saying that you can’t own a car or you shouldn’t own a car. You’re going to need to go to the grocery store or you’re going to need to move stuff or your business requires you to have a vehicle.
But if you can let’s try and get ourselves out of our cars and be able to take public transportation. I’m a strong advocate of that. I took the RTD to BART the other day and I was really excited about it. And so I see a lot of opportunities where we can partner with RTD, expand Tracer so that we can meet the needs of residents here in Tracy. And also push for the construction of Valley Link faster. I think we should, we should start looking at how can we start building this train so that we can connect our cities together. And I think a great spot would be to connect Tracy and Lathrop which is already on the map, but it’s now phase two instead of part of phase one of the project. And I’d like to see maybe like a reversal or like a test site that we can allow folks to see that this is a viable project that’s coming into existing. And start creating that passenger ridership.
And I’d like to see what we can do working with RTD and Tracer to offer monthly passes for residents. I don’t think we have anything like that right now that many other transit agencies have. So imagine being able to only pay $100 when you get to BART in 30 minutes versus sitting in your car and wasting $50 on gas, because you’re just sitting there for two hours. Having to refill every day. That’s a lot. And so I think one of the great benefits is that we are in a time where we can either choose to move the needle in a different direction or we can still stay with what we already know. And I think people are fed up. I know I’m fed up. And I want to see us move the needle in a different direction.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. That’s awesome. Well, let’s hope that we get that opportunity for sure. So coming full circle, I know you started out talking a little bit about your bio. And perspective is always kind of one of those things where you’re trying to get to know somebody, get to know your candidate. So tell us a little bit about you and how… Because I mean you have a thought process, a perspective. I think that is so interesting to me.
You come with so much energy, you’re always… Anywhere I go, you seem to be there. I mean, you are showing up and getting to know people and trying to engage and really understand what’s going on in the city, which I think is fabulous. So tell us a little bit about you and, I mean, the fact that you were thinking politics and watching debates on TV as a child, I can’t imagine. My dad was always really focused in serving the community, running for city council, all of those things. But when I finally got engaged, I know I was in high school. So you were talking about elementary and middle school.
William Mutezenberg: Yeah, I think I’ve always just had that interest. And I kind of would say it probably stems from my grandpa who is a lover of history as well. He collects classic cars. He has books on world war II. Whenever I’d go over, I think this is… I’ll be a little embarrassing and say like back when I was like a kid, I dressed like… I was so into like early 1900s fashion that I sometimes would go to school in a vest and like, and like a new news boy cap. And that still has stuck around with me. I still have a appreciation for history, but I appreciate history both for what progress we’ve made and also acknowledging the lessons that we still have to learn. And so I think just like a part of me also stems from my dad, having worked with him.
He’d ask me to go help with yard work and things like that. And he’d be like, “Are you going to be a doer or are you going to be a watcher?” Which basically was his way of saying you better help me. And so that’s kind of really been ingrained in my head is this idea of I can stand back and watch and make complaints or I can try and step up as much as I can. And I think that’s where I think politics really calls out to me is that I believe that in making our government work to serve the needs of our residents, of our people and doing it in a way that is equitable, that is fair and treats people with dignity.
I think that’s important to me. And having the experience of what I’ve gone through, through middle school and high school and both personally, and what I’ve witnessed through other friends, it’s really shaped how I view the world. And I want to build for me a world where we are respectful of each other, that we understand that not everyone’s the same and that each of us carry our own struggles, our own traumas, our own histories. But those are all valued. And those are all parts that make us who we are. There’s going to be ugly parts that we all don’t want to share. And that’s okay. But to acknowledge that and use that or respect that. And let’s work together going forward to build something that we can all be proud of is something that really touches on me as a person.
And really, it inspires me to want to do more. Sometimes I do so much that I burn myself out. But I still find myself being able to pick myself… Being able to pick myself up and act. And so whether it was being at school and being really passionate about history projects to now running for office and wanting to connect with residents and voters.
I want to just be a beacon for folks to feel a source of optimism, not just in myself, but with themselves as well. When I talk to residents, I want to say like, this isn’t just about… Like I said before, this isn’t just about… My campaign’s not just about me running for office. It’s about how can we bring the community together so that folks feel like they are seeing change and that they’re part of that change. And that they are seeing that change happen in a positive way that helps them grow. It helps them feel confident and helps them feel connected to the community.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. I love that. And your father’s, are you a doer or are you a watcher? I’m going to have to put that up on my wall. That sounds like something my dad would’ve said, it’s like, he used to tell me there’s 24 hours in a day. You and the president have the same amount of time. What are you doing with yours? And as a child, I was like, oh my gosh, the president is so busy. It’s not a fair comparison.
William Mutezenberg: It’s not a fair comparison, but you can still do lots of things. Whether that’s personal in your life or going out and being part of the community. I say as long as you’re doing something in that 24 hours, that brings you, meaning that makes you feel confident and makes you feel like you’ve done something worthwhile, then I’d say that’s a good day, regardless of all the challenges that come in between.
Melyssa Barrett: Definitely, definitely. Well, William, I cannot thank you enough for joining me. It’s been a pleasure.
William Mutezenberg: Oh, I’m very honored and thankful for this opportunity.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah, no, I think… And it’s so funny because I think there’s so much challenge with getting information out. You mentioned misinformation as well. And I just find that it’s always so much easier to just have people come on and talk about… Tell their own story. My husband was a storyteller. Everybody has a story. So I appreciate you coming on and talking about yours and wishing you the best of luck in your city council run.
William Mutezenberg: Absolutely. Can I do a shameless plug really quick?
Melyssa Barrett: Absolutely. Go for it.
William Mutezenberg: So I would love to invite folks to, if they really enjoyed listening to what I have to share and my vision for the city of Tracy to please visit my website, votewill.org where you can learn about the issues that I’m running on, how to get involved and how we can build a stronger Tracy together.
Melyssa Barrett: Awesome, votewill.org. Okay. Awesome. Well, thanks Will, and we will definitely stay in touch. I’m sure I’ll see you at the next event.
William Mutezenberg: Oh, absolutely. I’ll be there.
Melyssa Barrett: But let me know if you… Well, let me first just say thank you so much for coming and I look forward to hearing more from you.
William Mutezenberg: Awesome pleasure’s all mine.
Melyssa Barrett: Thanks for joining me on The Jali Podcast, please subscribe. So you won’t miss an episode. See you next week.