Clovis Mayor and councilmember Bob Whalen has had the experiences you only hear about.
Growing up with a stepfather running for the State Assembly, Whalen got his first experience doing public work at 11 years old going door to door asking people to vote for his father.
“That was a positive experience because even if people hated my step dad, they would always be polite to me,” Whalen said. “So my first impression was positive.”
As Whalen got older, the dream did not exactly say politics, but what kid’s dream did?
“I wanted to be just like Daryle Lamonica, I thought that was every kid’s dream back then,” he said. “My mom was a cougar and went to Clovis High the same time Daryle Lamonica was hitting his stride there. So I’m rifling through her old year book right, and I’m an Oakland Raiders fan. I noticed the name Daryle Lamonica and I’m a young kid but I had no idea about my mom, and I became impressed with my mom.”
Those dreams, however, did not last long. Whalen played football through middle school and even got to be a quarterback in junior high, but then realized “he wasn’t very talented in that area.”
Once he transitioned into high school, Whalen began pursuing another interest in his life. Living in northern California with his father around his John Deere dealership in a small farming community, he became very active in ag organization Future Farmers of America (FFA).
Whalen began doing more and more work within the organization, doing livestock judging and actually started raising livestock himself. He then joined an organization called Parliamentary Procedure, a debate organization that debated current agricultural issues related to the state of California. That is what sparked another interest for Whalen and made him more aware of what goes on in politics.
Whalen’s next route took him to Fresno State where he continued his education and began his involvement with politics. He became the student body president and eventually the chair of The California State Student Association. As the chair, Whalen represented the student body presidents from all the schools in the CSU system to the governor and the legislature but also the board of trustees.
“There’s a distinction between campaigning and governing, “Whalen said. “So while I kind of knew how to campaign – the governance aspect of it at that kind of a level where I’m working with Sacramento professionals and then the board of trustees – it gave me the experience to understand that there is that kind of distinction there and that you need to make sure you’re aware of the different set of factors when you’re campaigning.”
After graduating from Fresno State with a degree in Finance, Whalen got a job as a stockbroker with a firm called Paine Webber. He was in his sixth year with the company when his wife came home from jury duty and suggested another idea for him to pursue.
“My wife came home from jury service and said to me ‘I think you should be a lawyer’ and that was something I’ve always wanted to pursue,” Whalen said. “Then we found out about this place, Regent University, a Christian-based ABA accredited law school in Virginia Beach, Virginia. We went to visit back there and I fell in love with it, she fell in love with it, so I quit my job at Paine Webber and we moved out of the house we had just bought but thankfully we were able to rent it out.”
After finishing his schooling at RU, he and his family moved back to their Clovis home. Whalen now works for Lisa Smittcamp, the elected District Attorney, as the Chief Deputy District Attorney supervising attorneys in a variety of specialties.
Whalen said his main goal in that position is to instill in them a courage – the courage they need in order to reveal the truth to the trier fact and not necessarily focus on winning but focus on their responsibility to the citizens of the state of California and the district to honor the constitution.
“My dreams have shifted over time, I had a dream of becoming an assemblymember and I lost twice actually for that deal, but at some point you begin to realize that you’re kind of blessed wherever you are as long as you realize the blessings that you have,” he said. “I’m always going to be passionate about the state of California. I don’t know what the future holds for the state of California, but for me I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be an elected state legislator in the future. But I’ve really enjoyed the city council.”
Whalen has served on the city council since 2003 and is currently in his second go around as mayor of Clovis.
“I’m a fourth generation Clovis resident, my mentors have always been the citizens of Clovis,” Whalen said. “I love talking to the citizens in Clovis, whether it be at the gas station or in line at the grocery store – they’ve had some really great ideas and I love working together with them.”