Ricky Gill started volunteer work at St. Mary’s Interfaith Community Services for the Homeless in Stockton, Calif., served as co-chairman of the Greater Lodi Area Youth Commission and was appointed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California State Board of Education — all before he even started college.
But now, the 24-year-old UC Berkeley School of Law student is seeking to add one more gem to his already expansive resume: United States congressman.
Gill, who was born and raised in Lodi, Calif., said he is running as a Republican to represent San Joaquin County in the 11th Congressional District — an area he said has not had a congressional representative and a “seat at the table and a voice in American politics.” Currently, Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, represents the district, which comprises cities in the San Joaquin Valley as well as several East Bay cities such as Pleasanton, San Ramon and Dublin.
“Ricky’s got roots, and he likes those roots,” said Patrick Hanlon, a lecturer at the law school who had Gill in his medical malpractice course. “He’s open to that community, and he’s really proud of it.”
Among Gill’s goals for office are creating more jobs for the area, bringing down the cost of health care, making structural changes to Congress — such as advocating for a presidential line-item veto and a single subject rule for legislation — and defending and reforming public education.
“The state government has rules in place to sort of stay on point that the federal government doesn’t have,” he said. “You should not have one mammoth piece of legislation that touches on 10 different subjects.”
Gill said that though he has always been interested in public education, the time he spent serving as the only student member of the state’s Board of Education exposed him to larger issues facing K-12 education and prepared him for seeking public office. After Schwarzenegger appointed Gill to the board in 2004, Gill said he faced “very consequential decisions,” such as the fate of the California High School Exit Exam.
“My constituency was every single K-12 public school student — 10 times the size of this congressional district,” he said. “I was proud to serve in that role appointed by the governor.”
The following year, Gill served as an advisor to the California Secretary for Education, where he facilitated Schwarzenegger’s Initiative to Turn Around Failing Schools.
Not only has Gill been interested in reforming public education, but according to former Lodi mayor Susan Hitchcock — who has known Gill since he was a child — Gill is a “lifelong learner” with many different interests and passions ranging from public education to farming to immigration and health care.
“He’s really an exceptional being,” Hitchcock said. “If you spend any time talking with him at all, you would never think he’s 24 — you would think he’s 44 or older. He’s a wise soul.”
According to Hitchcock, it is Gill’s remarkable intellect, character and past leadership experience that would make him fit for office.
“When you have any kind of conversation with him, Ricky has great analytical and synthesis skills that you just don’t see in young people,” she said. “You don’t see the interest generally in young people that he has in the political process.”
Hanlon said Gill has the skills to fulfill both the legislative and political sides of holding public office.
“He’s very articulate, he’s very respectful of what other people say,” Hanlon said. “He has a knack for thinking about a pragmatic, small fix that you could actually build a coalition on, rather than big projects that take years and years and years or possibly decades to build a coalition around.”
Ultimately, Gill said he wants to give the community of his hometown more of a bargaining position and representation in American politics.
“I’ve always had a high regard for this community, and I wanted to be an asset here,” he said. “I wanted to roll up my sleeves and make a difference.”
Allie Bidwell is the news editor.