Be the handshake of old.
California Sen. Shannon Grove said she remembers that sage advice given to her by prominent banker and local philanthropist Ray Dezember. Follow through on your promises. If something's not going as expected, pick up the phone and say so.
"Let your word be true. Be truthful," Grove said.
The Bakersfield Republican said she's always felt that was important as the owner of a staffing business, and she sees that need in politics, too.
"Be truthful and honest and meet them where they are at," Grove said.
In 2010 "politics came looking for me," she said. People were looking for job creators, and being the owner of a 100 percent woman-owned business "gave me a lot of credibility with the community." She served on an employment committee at the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce. She was building connections with the wider community, in Bakersfield and Ridgecrest, with veterans and with the faith community, as she served on several boards. She had, as she said, "a foot in the community."
Politics came looking for her, she said, when Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and Republican political consultant Mark Abernathy asked her if she had thought about politics. Abernathy asked her questions about her background, and the U.S. Constitution.
It led her to pray and fast for 21 days to consider the decision to run for the 34th Assembly District seat. "To my very much surprise," Grove said, "we won."
She made a path. Raised in Arvin by a single mother whose parents divorced when she was only 9 months old, there was no money for college. She was one of five children, the daughter of a mother who worked in the sheds.
Grove went into the U.S Army, and while stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, she witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
She started her own staffing company, Continental Labor and Staffing Resources, in 1983 — "I love ... helping people get jobs," she notes.
She is the first woman veteran elected to the California Legislature, serving in the 34th Assembly District from 2010 to 2016. Elected to the 16th District Senate seat in 2018, in January 2019 she was elected Leader of the Senate Republican Caucus, a role she held for two years.
She was appointed to the Governor's Military Council. Working on veterans' issues "warms my heart," she said. She advocated for funding to keep open the Veterans Home of California - Barstow, so veterans who retired in the desert could stay in the area they know.
Cathy Abernathy, Grove's former chief of staff in the state Assembly who is now a political consultant, describes her as a "spark plug."
"Once in a while you meet a person who is a spark plug, who if she agrees with what you are fighting for, it becomes her fight too. That’s Shannon Grove," Abernathy wrote. "She’s the little engine who could ... except more like a 747.
"From this Shannon has built a huge army of new followers, including campaign supporters many for the first time getting into political activism, enthusiastic small business owners, church-goers, farmers, cattlemen, as well as many who are poor and struggling as she’s been down that road herself."
Abernathy noted that Grove will take on one person's problem with a bureaucracy with the same passion as she does for a multimillion-dollar agriculture or oil industry issue.
"Shannon checks all the boxes — military service, small business experience, strong religious faith, wonderful husband Rick and extended family and for Kern County and certainly the local Republican Party, and love of country," Abernathy wrote. "She’s a real blessing for us."
Grove said women contribute so much in the Capitol. Other women worked with her, she said, to stop "horrible legislation" that would have harmed the oil and gas industry. She's not in agreement with other women on everything, but on some issues — affordable child care, good education, college opportunities and safety for families and communities — there's common ground.
Recently, she worked on passing legislation so people wouldn't need a special driver's license to pull certain horse trailers. She helped rural county sheriffs by bringing restitution funds for crimes of stealing copper and farm implements back to the communities where the crimes happen, so they can boost staffing to fight such crimes. She helped stop legislation that would have displaced more oil workers. And she delved into worker's compensation issues.
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Grove has been instrumental in helping him with legislative issues.
"I have always had a direct line to Sen. Grove that allows me to contact her quickly. Time can be very important on issues in Sacramento. It is not unusual for me to contact Sen. Grove while she is on the floor getting ready to vote," Youngblood said. "There are so many pieces of legislation that it is difficult to know and understand what the impacts are. She has contacted me on several occasions right before a vote asking the ramifications. We are so lucky in Kern to have a senator like her who listens. I am so proud to have her as my senator and my friend."
Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said Grove works hard in Sacramento to represent the people of Kern County.
"She is a forceful advocate for bills that help this community and a formidable foe for proposed legislation that is detrimental to our valley residents. When I have been to the Capitol to speak on public safety issues, I have personally seen the respect that her peers have for her," Zimmer wrote. "She cares about people and has a heart for crime victims. I have tremendous respect for the work she has done to prevent further EDD (Employment Development Department) fraud. Most impressive is her personal relationship with Jesus Christ and her love for her husband, children and grandchildren."
Grove does this work while balancing the roles of wife, mom, grandma and business owner.
Her advice? Remember the handshake of old. Meet people where they are. Work hard.
“Trust God. He’s always got a path for you,” she said. "Every day get up and still try to do the right things.”