Service: It’s in my DNA

Some people are said to have something in their DNA that leads them to where they are. Think, for example, of Kate Hudson. With Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell for parents, acting was certainly in her DNA. In the world of sports, it’s hardly surprising that Archie Manning, a Pro Bowl quarterback, has two sons who both went on to be Super Bowl MVPs (even if one did ditch the San Diego Chargers to get there). For me, the common thread which I inherited from my parents is service, and this has led me to where I am today.  

Wendy greeting her dad at Naval Station LemooreMy dad, Dave, grew up in Anacostia, a working-class suburb of Washington, DC. He entered the Naval Academy ­­at the height of the Vietnam War, becoming a carrier-based A-4 pilot, and then an instructor at the Academy (in fact I was born at the Naval Academy Hospital while he was stationed there). He eventually retired as a Commander and A-7 pilot based at North Island, having served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years.

My mom, Kathy, ­­after raising my sister and me, qualified as an OBGYN nurse. She spent many years at the UCSD hospital in Hillcrest, and if you had a baby there or were born there yourself, there’s a good chance that sh­­­e performed an ultrasound on you!

As a result of this upbringing, I’ve always had a natural affinity for serving others. After graduating from San Diego State, I became an elementary school teacher. I spent a dozen years at a school in Escondido, where many of my kids came from migrant and low-income families. I also worked at an elementary school in Coronado for several years, where some of the students I taught were children of Navy personnel, as I had been.

In addition to my career as a teacher, I’ve felt a strong need to serve the community in other ways. When my third child, Joe, was born, he always seemed fussy and hungry, although none of my doctors could pinpoint a reason why. After researching the issue myself, I realized that he was tongue-tied, which meant that he was unable to latch effectively when breast-feeding, and could never get enough milk. If only I’d known this two years earlier, it could have saved Joe and me so much trauma! Because I didn’t want other moms and babies to be in the dark on these issues, I became a Certified Lactation Educator. This allowed me to help many moms to breast feed more effectively, as well as gave me the opportunity to support several moms who weren’t able to breast feed their children by connecting them with milk donors.

In more recent years, my dedication to service has manifested as a passion for gun violence prevention advocacy. As a teacher, lockdowns and lockdown drills were sadly a part of life, but the Sandy Hook killings really shook me to my core. In the years that have followed, similarly horrific incidents from Orlando and Parkland in the east to San Bernardino and Thousand Oaks here in Southern California have brought it home that something needs to be done to stem the tide of gun violence (not to mention the tens of thousands of suicides and domestic violence gun deaths that occur each year). I joined the San Diego chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America several years ago, and was the local chapter lead, before becoming the leader for California. In addition, I founded San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention, a local coalition of faith groups, community activists, gun violence prevention advocates and the SDPD, who conduct outreach and education across the city to reduce the level of gun violence, especially in low-income neighborhoods.

All of this leads me to where I am today. I want to continue to serve the citizens of San Diego – and District 7 in particular – to make it an even safer, healthier and more vibrant place to live. From my earliest memories as a Navy kid, to my many years as a teacher, and most recently working with the police and local and state lawmakers to keep our communities safer, I have always been drawn to helping others. I hope that I will be able to keep this tradition going by serving residents of District 7 as their San Diego City Council member.