I grew up in the Chicago area, went to the East Coast for college, and came to the Bay Area in 1968 to go to graduate school. After earning a Ph.D. in languages and literature at Stanford and obtaining an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, I went to work as a management consultant.
I specialized in budgeting and finance, with private clients such as Warner Brothers, Coca Cola, and Mobil Oil, and public clients such as the Borough of Anchorage Alaska, the Cities of Menlo Park and Milpitas, and the States of Washington and Idaho, and federal agencies such as the U.S. Air Force and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. I also performed many studies of educational issues for the (then) U.S. Office of Education in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. As a principal in a small consulting firm in Palo Alto, I wrote the original business plans for the Gymboree Corporation and Banana Republic, which brought in the first outside funding for those companies.
During this time, I became committed to public service. I was one of three founders of a Palo Alto-based theater troupe that became TheatreWorks, now a major, regional repertory company (https://theatreworks.org) that recently won the Tony Award for best regional repertory company in the U.S. I served as its business manager and later a board member. I was appointed by the governor to California’s Special Education Commission, where I served for seven years, one year as its chairperson. In Menlo Park, I served on the Residential Review Task Force, the Child Care Task Force, the Budget Advisory Group, and the resident group interviewing city manager candidates.
In 1979, I began work on what had been a business school project: the creation of an educational organization that would help parents provide guidance to their young children. It would evolve into an organization that now operates three large child care centers, two private schools, and a writing program that has conducted specialized writing courses to thousands of students. It now serves roughly 600 students per year with 100 employees, which is roughly the same size as the Fire Protection District.
My wife, Candace, and I raised two sons in the house I have owned since 1975. Both attended Menlo Atherton High School and are now adults.
I have continued to be dedicated to public service, with an increasing interest in public safety. In the early 90s, I joined Just Us, an East Palo Alto-based group that mobilized volunteers to discourage drug dealing and other crime in East Palo Alto and The Willows area of Menlo Park. I also co-founded a group called Citizen Patrol, a group of Menlo Park residents who patrolled The Willows and the Westside are of East Palo Alto in private vehicles linked by radio to the two police departments, serving as their “eyes and ears.” As a leader for my two sons’ Boy Scout troop (and Eagle Scout myself), I specialized in wilderness first aid and safety. I became CERT trained many years ago and continue to serve as an active CERT volunteer. I was appointed by the fire chief to his CERT Advisory Group in 2011, before being elected to the Board of the District in 2013.
As president of the Fire Board, I have worked hard on two goals: to improve our relationships with our neighboring agencies, arranging the first joint meetings ever between elected representatives of the District and elected representatives in East Palo Alto and San Mateo County; and to eliminate individual frictions among Board members at public meetings that limit the Board’s effectiveness in dealing with the fundamental issues confronting it. This year, I created a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee to study for the first time ever how well our employees' demographic profile reflects the demographics of our District's population. That effort has resulted in a commitment by the District's top leadership to make changes to its recruiting, hiring, and promotion practices.
As President, I was selected by the leaders of the other special districts in San Mateo County to represent them on the Countywide Oversight Board (https://controller.smcgov.org/countywide-oversight-board-former-redevelopment-agencies). That is the new group charged with the orderly disposition of over $400 million in former redevelopment agency properties.
Chuck Bernstein for Menlo Park Fire Board, FPPC #1360227
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