Off Beat: From farm boy to top cop at Berkeley
When a story lands in your lap, you have to use it. Such was the case with an article that appeared late last month in the Oakland Tribune, noting the departure of Mitch Celaya as the police chief at UC Berkeley, where he served for 30 years, the last four as chief.
His new job is chief in sleepy Calistoga, where the political activism is, perhaps, muted.
What's his connection to Yuba-Sutter?
Celaya, 52, grew up in Sutter County, just outside of Yuba City, according to the Tribune.
As the newspaper reported, "Mitch Celaya had never seen the likes of the Bubble Lady, the Naked Man or even Hare Krishnas when he reported for duty at UC Berkeley 30 years ago. Celaya was only 22, the son of prune and walnut farmers who lived in a trailer on their employer's rural Yuba City property. Growing up, he took a bus 20 minutes to the nearest school."
Celaya, the Tribune recounted, "wrestled for his high school team, hung out with his brothers and sister and watched television."
He liked to watch cop dramas on TV — anyone remember "Adam-12"? — and aspired to be one of the men in blue.
"I realized early on that as much as farming is an honorable (job), it's hard work," Celaya told the Tribune. "And it wasn't something I wanted to do."
So he was a farm boy who really didn't see a future in farming. Don't tell that to the Yuba-Sutter Farm Bureau.
The Tribune said Celaya enrolled in an occupational training program at Yuba City High School that gave him a glimpse of what police work could be like. From YCHS, he went to Butte College, where he earned an associate degree in administration of justice.
He graduated from the police academy in 1982. The Tribune said a classmate was hired at Cal, so Celaya applied, too.
"Here was this county kid who came to the big city and every day at noon time the Hare Krishnas were dancing and the Bubble Lady was blowing bubbles and (street performer) Stoney Burke would be screaming his rhetoric," Celaya told the paper. "Then came then X-plicit Players (who perform naked) and the naked people. I was going, 'Wow, we're not in Yuba City anymore.'"
Yes, that would describe Celaya's adventure. Berkeley is not at all like Yuba City. Celaya may make it back to Yuba City on occasion. According to the Tribune, he lives in Fairfield.