Editor’s Note: myBurbank will be highlighting the upcoming election in two areas, first candidate profiles to give you some background on each candidate, and second will be a series of questions on each issue. We will run a new profile each day and the question/answer part will run after they are completed.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in the small northern California town of Castro Valley. It is a quiet, little suburb with its own school district, and one of the main reasons I love Burbank is because it reminds me of my childhood. For three years during middle school, though, my father’s job took us to rural Iowa where I experienced the farming community firsthand. I spent time getting to know a world of animals and grain silos and open spaces filled with adventure. I enjoyed staying out until sunset, riding bikes in safe neighborhoods with my friends, and playing “kick the can” with all the kids on my block. My time in the town of Rock Rapids fostered a sense of community in me that I still hold to this day. I will tell you, the Midwest is like a different country than the West Coast. I am grateful to have spent time in vastly different regions of our nation. However, this suburban kid was not content having only experienced the suburbs and rural America. I needed to see the big city for myself. I studied film at San Francisco State University with a diverse group of students from all over the world. In 2004, I moved to Burbank, where I became a union actor in film and television.
What was the most memorable or character-building part of your upbringing?
The most memorable and character-building part of my upbringing was growing up in a large Greek family. I have an older brother who looked out for me, and I learned to follow his advice which serves me well to this day. My younger sister always needed a little extra care and attention, and I adored seeing her succeed at anything she put her mind to. My father taught me the value of a hard day’s work while still finding the moments to be goofy. My mother always pushed me to do better in the subjects I was passionate about. Having that close-knit support helped me to succeed when all the odds told me I couldn’t. You see, I was born autistic, and the love of my family did what no doctor or therapist could do: it helped me thrive.
How long have you been in Burbank?
Since 2004, I have lived at three different Burbank addresses: West Kling Street near Vons, North Niagara Street by Gross Park, and East Tujunga Avenue across from Raffi’s Market.
What drew you to the City of Burbank?
The first thing that drew me to Burbank was film and television production. We have a great number of studios here, and I was seeking employment in the entertainment industry. After becoming a union actor and working regularly on projects like Parks and Recreation, New Girl, and Entourage, I became a father. Once my son was diagnosed with autism, I began to seriously consider which school district was best for him. After researching the educational programs in LA County, I found that Burbank had one of the highest-ranked school districts in the state. I enrolled my son into BUSD starting in kindergarten. I guess you can say the industry brought me here, but I stayed for the schools.
What are some of your interests/hobbies?
I’ve been a professional improviser for over 20 years, and I’m on the mainstage roster at ComedySportz Los Angeles. I’m a graduate of Groundlings, a former teacher at Second City Hollywood, and an alum of iO West. From personal experience, I learned that improv was beneficial for people like me on the autism spectrum. I took this knowledge and started teaching improv to autistic teenagers, with great results. It was one of the most rewarding classes I’ve ever taught. As a basic principle of improv, the concept of “Yes, and…” is a pretty good approach to life in general. I have also been an avid gamer, and I enjoy Capcom fighting games and Blizzard RPGs. And before the pandemic hit, you could often see me at Geeky Teas on weekends playing tabletop games. For the last few years, I have regularly attended Burbank PFLAG meetings to support and learn from our LGBTQIA+ community. But of course, my interests often take a backseat to my son’s passions. Because of him, I can list off every single train from Thomas the Tank Engine, and my home is filled with LEGO in every corner. Not to mention, his favorite pastime is going on adventures with his Dada. I find it so cute that at eight years old, he still calls me Dada.
What motivated you to run for office?
After the election results of November 2016, I knew that I had to do everything I could to help the people who needed it most. I figured I could do the greatest good helping people right here in my own city. I had never had political aspirations before but felt called to serve my neighbors in the community. I remember waking from a dream on November 10th and typing into the Google search bar “Burbank city elections.” Within a month, I had qualified for the ballot, and thus began my first campaign for elected office. Although I did not win that year, I never stopped working for the people of this fine city. I was appointed to the Transportation Commission, of which I am currently Chair, and I joined the Burbank Advisory Council on Disabilities. The issues I ran on in 2017 have still not been addressed, so I am here again to advocate for affordable housing, homeless services, and helping working-class families succeed.
Is there anything else you’d like Burbank residents to know about you?
During this entire campaign, I am refusing all donations from developers, landlords, real estate interests, and fossil fuel executives as well as all corporations and corporate PACs. If I win a seat in this race, I would be the only renter, the only parent with school-age children, the only Millennial, and the first-ever graduate of Leadership Burbank on our city council. I would also be the first openly autistic elected official in California’s history.