The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
This column was supposed to be about a rising political star. But it turns out that this rising political star isn’t interested in being a rising political star. Instead, he wants to do what he does best, helping students. He’s living his life story by helping students receive the kind of help he needed and never received because didn’t realize it was there for the asking.
Hector Camacho, a trustee of the San Mateo County Board of Education and newly elected vice president of the California County Boards of Education, is focused on helping students realize they have options and that there are people there to help. But it helps if the student asks. He admits to not liking school as a youngster even though his teachers said he had great potential. The only exception was the late Assemblyman Gene Mullin, his history teacher at South San Francisco High School. He worked hard to be a good student for him. “We belonged to the same Catholic Church and Mullin always sat four rows behind me. I wanted him to be proud of me. I felt his gaze.”
Camacho knew early on he wanted to be a teacher. After graduating from high school, he attended College of San Mateo but it was overwhelming and he never asked for the help he desperately needed. He grew up in Los Angeles and wanted to return so he applied to USC and was admitted but had no idea how much it would cost. When he arrived on campus and found out, he didn’t have the funds so returned home and eventually, after many starts and gaps, graduated with an AA degree from CSM. From there he did an unprecedented thing for him and his parents and went across country to Catholic University in Washington, D.C., where he earned a bachelor’s degree.
He is very close to his parents. They moved to San Bruno from Los Angeles and bought a house near the airport which is still their home. His dad is from Los Angeles; his mom from Texas. Father, a carpenter, had a job at South San Francisco High so Camacho went there instead of a San Bruno school. Before that, he attended Bel Aire and Parkside schools in San Bruno. His mom worked for Franklin Templeton. Camacho is married and has two young sons. He is the director of School Culture and Belonging at St. Francis High School, a private Catholic school in Mountain View. Previously, he taught at Menlo-Atherton High in Atherton. Before that, his mom got him a job at Franklin Templeton where he learned what is meant to be disciplined and how much doing well in college meant for one’s future. His wife is a civilian employee of the U.S. Coast Guard and they have two young sons.
I asked a colleague on the San Mateo County Board of Education, Ted Lempert (also my son), for some thoughts on Camacho. He wrote: “His public interview for the vacancy on the San Mateo County Board of Education a number of years back was the best interview anyone on the board had ever heard. He is always there to volunteer for yet another leadership role at the county or state level — not because he wants to add to a list, but because he is passionate about helping kids.”
Why did I think Camacho was a rising political star? Because he seemed to have the support of progressives as well as older political officials. When Assemblymember Kevin Mullin was putting together his slate for the California Democratic State Convention, Camacho was on his list. But Camacho was also on a list of the newly emerging but powerful progressives who had put together their own slate.