It’s the end of an era as Lamar Heystek, the youngest councilmember since former ASUCD President Bob Black’s election in 1974, announced that he will not be seeking reelection.
Heystek, a former ASUCD senator, is a known advocate for students and has been involved in passing a living wage ordinance that ensures that workers in Davis make enough to be able to afford reasonable housing. Heystek was also instrumental in setting up the Youth Advisory Task Force which allows youth to address the City Council directly about issues that affect them.
Heystek will be taking this time off to start a family with his fiancé Pui San. They are to be married Jun. 5 and hope to have their first child by 2011.
He will not be giving up his political life entirely, however.
“I am currently the president of my homeowners’ association, and my term on the HOA Board will run past the end of my council term, so I will remain involved in my neighborhood for the foreseeable future,” said Heystek. “My interest has always been in youth issues, so I will probably remain involved in efforts to support our young people.”
Heystek intends to run for office after he has children.
“That is not to say that I have retired from public office altogether or have lost that proverbial ‘fire in the belly,'” said Heystek in a written statement. “Rather, I am taking a hiatus that begins at the end of my term in July of next year.”
Director of local government relations for UC Davis and former Woodland Mayor, Gary Sandy has faith in Heystek’s ability to re-enter politics despite the many obstacles in doing so.
“It’s very difficult to come back,” Sandy said. “Of the many people I’ve seen who have tried to re-ignite political careers, probably less than 10 percent succeed. It’s the equivalent of starting over and as a person’s career and time constraints become more demanding, the decision to re-enter public office is a daunting one. Still, Lamar is very young and has shown a willingness to work hard so I wouldn’t count him out.”
UC Davis alumnus Steven D. Lee has known and worked with Heystek for three years as ASUCD’s External Affairs Commission chairman and later as its director of city and county affairs.
“What distinguishes councilmember Heystek from others and what I believe people will miss about him, is the civility and professionalism he brings to the council,” Lee said. “Even when he disagrees with others, he listens respectfully to what they say and when it’s his turn to speak or ask questions, he comes prepared and speaks his mind in an inclusive and thoughtful manner.”
Heystek’s family has a strong political background. His father, René, and his family were interned at concentration camp in World War II during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies. Later, his father joined the Peace Corps under John F. Kennedy’s presidency. Heystek’s sister and twin brother are also actively involved in politics.
Lee, who is currently studying law at Duke, sees Heystek as a role model for himself and for the community.
“He shows that with hard work, one can be elected to public office early on and that public office is not the exclusive domain of people in their 50s or those who have decades of prior experience,” Lee said. “He is an inspiration to those who have a deep desire to serve the public but who are not the most traditional candidates.”
Heystek intends to continue working as coordinator for the Yolo County Family Resource Center, a nonprofit organization that provides various social services for the residents of Yolo county. Heystek hopes to provide a brighter future for underprivileged citizens.
“I hope that the most vulnerable or neglected members of our community will feel more a part of Davis,” Heystek said. “In that population, I would include UC Davis students, youth who aren’t as socially connected as their peers, families at or below the poverty line, racial minorities and those who live with physical or mental disabilities.”
Like Sandy, Lee believes that Heysteks’ youth and vigor will work in his favor should he choose to return to politics in the future.
“He is still young and has plenty of time. Most people do not get started in politics until much older; the fact that he started so young will only give him an edge over his competitors,” said Lee. “I suspect that people in Davis will remember what he has done for them and will rally around him should he ever decide to return to politics.”
JANE TEIXEIRA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.