SACRAMENTO – This was shortly after 12 noon on Monday in the Assembly chamber of the state capitol building here.
Dante Acosta of Santa Clarita’s 38th Assembly District, one of the body’s newly elected members, had his right hand raised to take the oath of office when his eyes drifted up to the gallery and he spotted his family.
His wife, Carolyn, was there. His daughter, Alexandra, 21, was there, as was his son, Doran, 15.
But one family member was missing. One family member will always be missing – in the flesh, though never in spirit.
Army Specialist Rudy Acosta of the 2nd Cavalry and a combat medic was just about to turn 20 when he was killed in Afghanistan on March 19, 2011. His death naturally devastated the Acosta family, but out of that tragedy, Dante Acosta recalled on Monday, came a spark for public service.
That spark, Acosta said, led him to the Santa Clarita City Council, and ultimately to Monday’s ceremony, which opened the 2017-18 California Legislative session.
“You go down the road or life, and sometimes there’s a bump in that road or a detour,’’ Acosta was saying in his temporary offices here, surrounded by a couple of dozen friends, family members and area politicos, including Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar and council member Laurene Weste.
“(After Rudy’s death) we found ourselves on a completely different road – and then the question is, ‘Do you make the most of it?’ ’’
“We tried to take a tragic situation … I tried to channel it into public service.
“Most parents, they try to pass the baton onto their children. With Rudy, he passed the baton of public service up to me. He inspired me.
“I looked up in the gallery and I thought about Rudy,’’ Acosta said.
“I also thought about the oath I was taking — to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. And I thought, that was the same oath he took.”
After taking his Assembly oath, Acosta’s debut on the chamber floor didn’t take long – alphabetically, his was the first name called by the Assembly Clerk during the roll call.
Acosta’s first vote came a few minutes later – in support of fellow Republican Chad Mayes to be named the Assembly’s speaker.
Not surprisingly, in the Democrat-controlled Assembly, that vote went nowhere, and Anthony Rendon carried the day and was elected speaker.
After a contentious campaign, Acosta beat Democrat Christy Smith with 53.1 percent of the vote in November.
Next on his agenda, Acosta said, is hiring staff to fill out his offices in Sacramento and Santa Clarita. Those offers could not be made until he was sworn in.
Then comes the really tough part – governing.
Acosta touts himself as a “consensus builder,” and that’s a skill he will need in the minority party.
He has vowed to support more “bang for our buck” in education, pushing vocational training and better connections between schools and local businesses.
He’s also an opponent of “overregulation” of businesses, suggesting government’s role needs to be cut way back because, “for too long, small-business owners in California have been getting the short end of the stick.”
His other big issues, he said, will be public safety and infrastructure – on the latter, opposing high-speed rail in favor of road repair and building new water-delivery and treatment facilities.
“We’re going to be very district-oriented,” he said Monday.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Monday was only Day 1.