A Life of Service

John Garamendi: Rancher, Family Man, Public Servant

John Garamendi was raised on his family’s ranch in Mokelumne Hill, California. He received his B.A. in business from UC Berkeley where he was a Wheeler Scholar, second team All America offensive guard, two-time all Pacific Coast Conference team, and the 1964 West Coast heavy weight wrestling champion. They now have 13 grandchildren and continue to raise Angus cattle on their family ranch and grow pears in their Delta orchard.


John and Patti Garamendi in the Peace Corp
Garamendi All american.
Garamendi works with villagers in Metu Ethiopia
Garamendi in the Peace Corps

Garamendi received his B.A. in business from UC Berkeley where he was a Wheeler Scholar, second team All America offensive guard in football, two-time all Pacific Coast Conference team, and the 1964 West Coast heavy weight wrestling champion. Upon graduating, he married his college sweetheart Patti and the entered the Peace Corps in Ethiopia. After returning from the Peace Corps, he attended Harvard Business School where he received his MBA.


Garamendi campaigning
Garamendi sworn into California Senate
Garamendi campaigning for Assembly
John Garamendi in 1975

At age 27, Garamendi ran for the State Assembly, turning a long held Republican seat Democratic and ushering in a Democratic supermajority in the Assembly. A graduate of the world’s best public university and best business school, taught life’s harshest lessons on the dirt streets of rural Ethiopia and from the faintest memories of elders, Garamendi approached the State Capitol ready to build a brighter future for his constituents, California, and struggling people the world over. After just a single term in the assembly, Garamendi was elected to the State Senate. In his 12 years in the Senate, Garamendi served as Senate Majority Leader and the Chair of three standing committees: the Health and Human Services Committee, Joint Committee on Science and Technology, and Revenue and Taxation Committee. During this tenure, Garamendi wrote and passed a number of groundbreaking laws including The Rural Health Services Act which established the clinic system that today serve millions of Californians with their primary care. Garamendi was a key facilitator to get the first alternative energy tax credits in California signed into law, and later wrote the legislation to extend the tax credits in 1987 and 1990.


Garamendi working as insurance commissioner
speaking with workers
Garamendi speaking at a press conference
Garamendi being sworn in as Insurance Commissioner

Beginning his service as California’s first elected Insurance Commissioner in 1991, Garamendi earned a reputation among state and national consumer organizations as the most effective protector of consumer interests in the nation. He successfully forced insurance companies to pay claims to policyholders, reduced homeowner, auto, and worker's compensation rates, and significantly curtailed insurance fraud.


Oval office with Clinton
Garamendi with Clinton
Deputy Secretary of the Interior John Garamendi

Appointed Deputy Secretary of the Interior in 1995 by President Clinton, Garamendi led the U.S. CALFED negotiating team in a process to restore the environment in the Sacramento and San Joaquin River basins and the Delta, while meeting the improved water availability for farmers and the region's rapidly growing cities. In what came to be known as the "Garamendi Process," city leaders, farmers, fishing interests and environmentalists systematically worked to resolve their differences and adopt mutually acceptable plans and policies to implement the Central Valley Improvement Act


Garamendi speaks about healthcare

Following his service in the Clinton administration, Garamendi returned to California and was re-elected as Insurance Commissioner. By 2003, the California workers’ compensation insurance industry was in crisis: premiums were escalating exponentially, claims costs were rising at nearly eight times the rate of inflation and injured workers were unable to obtain the care to which they were entitled because of inefficiencies in the system. Garamendi created the "Plan for Workers’ Compensation Reform,” a roadmap for re- structuring the existing workers’ compensation system, which reduced $14 billion in excess cost and lowered premiums by 45%. He also protected home owners by requiring major insurers to justify their rates, resulting in premium decreases for consumers of $441 million in 2006 alone.


Lt Governor Garamendi swearing in
Lt Governor Garamendi
Garamendi speaks on protecting the ocean
Garamendi speaking at UAW rally
John Garamendi at UCSF
Lt. Governor Garamendi delivers address at California Democratic Convention

Elected California Lieutenant Governor in 2006, he served as a UC and CSU Regent, where he fought for higher education funding and voted against every proposal to raise undergraduate tuition. As Chairman of the California Commission for Economic Development, he led successful efforts to expand workforce development and vocational education. As Chairman of the State Land's Commission, he protected the California Coast, Desert, Delta, and Lake Tahoe. 


Garamendi getting sworn into Congress
Garamendi on election night 2009
John Garamendi with Secretary Haaland at his conservation site
John Garamendi
John Garamendi with the Secretary of the Navy at Mare Island
John with Bill Clinton

Elected to Congress in 2009, he seeks to address the fundamental issues that face all Americans: job creation, fixing a broken economy, access to affordable health care, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and cleaning up Wall Street.

Garamendi sits on the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee as a senior member, working to ensure needed transportation and infrastructure investments to create American jobs and enhance domestic manufacturing. As a member of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) Conference Committee, Garamendi is part of a bipartisan bicameral delegation responsible for shaping the nation's water infrastructure policies. Working across the aisle with Republican lawmakers, Garamendi has secured funding for flood protection port development, and maritime transportation.

As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Garamendi continues to protect and expand Travis and Beale Air Force bases which provide critical logistics and military intelligence programs that serve our nation in times of war and peace. A strong advocate for veterans, Garamendi has supported every bill in the House designed to help veterans and their families, including tax credits for employers who hire veterans and VA funding.

Garamendi also serves as the Chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness. In that capacity, he oversees over one-third of the Department of Defense's authorization--the largest of any Armed Services Subcommittee. He’s taken full advantage of his time as Chairman to empower our military to respond to the effects of climate change, passed legislation to provide stronger health care services to service members, and enacted a “tenants’ bill of rights” into law to provide greater legal recourse for service members who have been harmed by unhealthy conditions in privatized military housing.  

Promoting policies that create jobs in Northern California, Garamendi has become the leading advocate for the Make It In America program to strengthen manufacturing. He is the author of four Make It In America bills that require that our tax money be spent on American-made equipment and jobs. His goal is to create a pathway to the middle class for thousands of hardworking Americans. Garamendi regularly hosts local job fairs to bring employers and job seekers together.