Here are a few details about my background which might illuminate how unprepared I was for the world of politics.
I grew up in Littleton, CO (yes, that Littleton, CO of Columbine High School fame). I had a stay-at-home mom, a dad that worked far too much, and an older sister. I was one of those who thought school seemed easy. I never studied, rarely had homework, but sadly, didn’t have the most active social life. In high school, I was in the choir – and we were good enough to perform in Carnegie Hall in New York on Easter Sunday in 1994.
Most of my time, however, was taken up by gymnastics. I started as a small child, and by my teens, was in the gym about 20 hours per week. I had dreams of the Olympics (unrealistic, I now realize) and competing in the NCAA. After graduating from high school, I fulfilled one of those dreams by competing for the University of Michigan and winning a National Championship with their team in 1999. I earned a B.S.E. in Aerospace Engineering in 2000, and an M.S.E. in Aerospace Engineering in 2001. Yes, I am a rocket scientist.
Following in my father’s footsteps, I joined the military after college. However, instead of the Army like my dad, I joined the “better” service, the U.S. Navy. I was commissioned as a Naval Officer three weeks before the September 11th attacks in 2001, and after nuclear propulsion training, served as a Submarine Officer. After three years on the USS COLUMBUS (SSN 762), I became an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy in their Electrical Engineering Department. Yes, I’m a nerd through and through.
During my time at the Academy, I volunteered to go to Iraq with an Army unit. I went on over 200 combat missions, and was there at the height of the war, with the second half of my year-long tour covering the famous “surge.” Service is in my family’s blood, but after eight years, I felt I had done my part and left the Navy in 2008.
That autumn, my wife, Christie, and I moved to Sydney, Australia (she had gotten a job there) for a year, before coming back to the U.S. and settling in Tampa, Florida for a job I had gotten. I worked for a Fortune 500 company for seven years managing employees all over the world. Although I had never been that interested in politics, but because public service was still important to me, I was in search of the best way to incorporate that yearning into my work life.
Although my wife and I started our own small business in 2016, it wasn’t as fulfilling as my time in the Navy. In 2017, I was appointed to the Selective Service Board by the Governor of Florida, but it didn’t really meet my desire to serve. (It’s mostly a “token” appointment because when was the last time we had a military draft?)
Why do I tell you all of this? Not to just give you some understanding of who I am, but to give you a sense of what motivated my decision to dive in and get involved in politics.
It had been ingrained in me since I was a child. Like many people, I wanted to earn my right to enjoy the benefits of being an American. Had I done that with eight years in the military and multiple deployments? Maybe. But was that enough to make me feel like I really deserved what we have in this country? I wasn’t so sure.
Some people have called me naïve, or sometimes a blind idealist (if they want to be kind). But when it comes right down to it, this country needs people to serve, and however rare that mindset is, and the closer those people are to idealists, the better they can be of service. I only wish there were more of us. I wrote this book in hopes of finding other service-minded optimists like myself and help them avoid some of my land mines and/or follow some of the paths I managed to forge.