Kevin Drabinski is known to many around SLO County as the local rep/hype man for Katcho Achadjian during Achadjian’s tenure in the California State Assembly.
Earlier this year, he left the halls of state government to take on a new mission – helming the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County as its new CEO.
Drabinski has been knocking around SLO County for 30 years, holding various administration and communications positions, including spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Monterey. (Interesting tidbit: Drabinski holds a master’s in pastoral studies from Loyola University in New Orleans as well as one in public administration from the University of San Francisco.)
He’s been known to don a superhero cape or break out in verse for causes he supports, but we caught up with him between outbursts of poetic expression to chat about the new gig and why invisibility isn’t on his wish list for superpowers.
If you had just 30 seconds to explain the impact of the Food Bank on our community, what would you say?
It’s a series of whispered impacts. Working with 200 partner agencies – to feed hungry women, men and children in our county – all this takes place in quiet service, on the down low.
There are times though when you’re tempted to scream about our nutrition policy advancing public health outcomes, yell about how half of the 6 million pounds we distribute annually is produce and shout that 40 percent of our food goes to children and another 20 percent to seniors.
They say food is love made edible. At the Food Bank we try to share the love.
What’s been the biggest surprise of your new position?
Who knew that the Food Bank provided the backbone infrastructure – I’m talking a 20,000-square-foot warehouse, insurances, refrigeration, fleet of trucks, forklifts, food sourcing and safe food handling – so that 200 allied community organizations could source highly nutritious staples and fresh produce to carry out the part of their mission that involves feeding the hungry?
Also, if we’ve earned a designation as a happy place, some of the credit undoubtedly lies in the fact that we are volunteer happy. Hundreds help out at the Food Bank and with our GleanSLO program every week, and thousands more do so through our partner agencies. That I think more than anything could contribute to a working definition of our collective happiness. That, and our weather is boss.
What do you miss most about state government?
I liked campaigns. They are a unique animal, marathons as opposed to sprints. They carry an invigorating energy but you’ve got to take care of yourself every step along the way or you’ll be in no shape to finish.
I miss the permanent staff of state agencies, some here locally even, who know their stuff backward and forward and have informed objective views on issues that you end up facing for the first time while in office. The perspective of career staff is invaluable and not subject to political winds. These folks see clearly the transient nature of political power for what it’s worth and by contrast take the long view.
I miss working with Katcho. He works too hard, that has to be said. But his generous bearing harkens back to thousands of years of Armenian and Middle Eastern hospitality. He’s something else.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
My dad grew sweeter as he grew older. It made me aware that you can’t wake up one day and decide to be a nice guy. The tree grows in a certain direction. I’m just trying to learn to be good company to myself so there’s a chance I could be welcome company to others when I’m older.
Who’s your favorite superhero?
Well admittedly it’s a bit of a stretch, but I would say Mrs. Incredible (the one voiced by the Georgia timbre of Holly Hunter, not my wife). Mrs. Incredible got her big lug pointed in the right direction, always made her kids a priority, was playful and creative, and knew the powerful dynamics of family teamwork. As I read this again, maybe I am talking about my wife!
Describe your perfect Sunday.
I’d take care of mass on Saturday, rise early Sunday and do my 10-minute stretch routine, don my wetsuit and fins and make it out to the rock in Morro Bay. I’d jump in at first light for a 40-minute swim and bodysurf a bit, going over the falls and landing chest first, spraying water like a rooster tail shining golden in the rising sun.
I have a standing pastry order at the French bakery near the stacks there, then I’d head to Steynberg for a cup of Joe. Maybe run into Bob and Wendy. Maybe run into our own poet laureate Jeanie Greensfelder – hers are the only emails I look forward to opening during the week. She’s a stone-cold poet in her own right and her introductions to other poets have opened windows and pulled me across thresholds for years.
I’d head home for more coffee, grab the family and stroll the Bob Jones trail. Work up an appetite for lunch at La Tapatía on 13th in Grover Beach, one of the best Mexican kitchens I’ve eaten out of, and believe me I’ve looked.
I’d end the day at our friend’s house near Snowden Rock with a good mess of friends and eat and laugh until they turned the music up, Memphis blues and Motown, and we shimmied the night away.
What person living or dead would you most like to take to coffee?
I’d enjoy java with Joseph Shabalala, lead singer and founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. They’re a South African a capella group. Not only that, they sing all by themselves without accompaniment. Anyway he’s been doing that for over 50 years and there’s a deep wisdom to their music that stirs my soul. I’d be hoping he could show me some dance moves.
What talent would you most like to have?
I’m too afraid of heights to fly, too good looking to be invisible, and I like to take things slow so I don’t wish for extra speed. My modest request is that I’d really like to be able to do calligraphy and for my handwriting to be at least legible and hopefully elegant. It would make it so when I send my brothers and sisters a postcard on a trip, it doesn’t take them a week to decipher.
A little bird told us that you got your bachelor’s degree in Spanish – what’s your favorite Spanish phrase?