Sharon Runner: Wife, Mother, Friend, Mentor

[This opinion editorial was originally published in the Acton & Agua Dulce News - click here to read it on the Acton & Agua Dulce News website.]

The skies of the Antelope Valley are vast and gazing to the horizon always reminds me that all things are possible if we dream big and work hard.

Thankfully, George and Sharon Runner were placed in the path of my life. I feel blessed have been encouraging me and my career for nearly thirty years.

Recently, the State Assembly adjourned in the memory of Sharon Runner. Along with my colleague Assemblyman Tom Lackey, I had the honor of speaking about Sharon from the Assembly floor.

Here are my comments:

“I love the institution of our state government and the opportunity it affords me to help the people of our state. Every time I walk onto the Assembly floor, my eyes well up knowing what a privilege it is to serve and I am always humbled by the fact I did not earn this seat by myself.

There were many people who helped along the way - my parents and family, particularly my wife Vanessa, friends, supporters and State Senator Sharon Runner.

The desks that we sit at on the Assembly floor are the originals from 1869 and the Clerk's office has kept a record since the 1950's of which member has sat at each desk. 

When the clerk's office supplied me my desk's history, I was pleased that Sharon Runner was a prior occupant.

Sharon was a friend and mentor to me throughout my life and I am forever grateful for her guidance and support.

If Sharon were here to list her life's accomplishments she would mention – wife, mother, friend and mentor – being a member of the state legislature would not be uttered from her lips. Not that it isn't important, but she always had her eyes set towards the horizon. Her life's purpose was eternally focused.

In all those roles, Sharon was a leader. Leadership expert John Maxwell writes if you want to be a leader, “Follow them and people will follow you.” Sharon invested her time and talent in other people.

Whether it be a text, phone call or offering sage advice when struggling with a life decision, Sharon was there. While her husband Senator George Runner led with his head, Sharon always led with her heart – earning her the title ‘The Funner Runner.'

A little over four years ago, I was running for the State Assembly seat that I currently occupy. In my primary was the wife of a powerful Congressman. Most people in the political class ducked. Not Sharon, she enthusiastically endorsed me.

From her hospital bed after surviving a double lung transplant she made calls urging people to support me. Who does that!? How many people think of what they can do for others while confronting death? Sharon Runner did. 

Sharon also practiced the “Law of Reproduction” by identifying and rising up new leaders. She understood how mentoring could bring out the potential and promise of every individual. 

For ten years Sharon served on the Board of California Women Lead. She understood that women bring a certain perspective to policy making and would work with women of all parties to help them find their leadership path.

Her mentoring touched her church, her Christian school, many non-profits and scores of families. Her legacy lives on through the work all these groups and individuals do to make our world a better place.

What is most striking about Sharon was the thankfulness she expressed for the life granted her and her constant praise for her Lord even to her last breath. 

Sharon was never bitter and she was so thankful for the four years that her lung transplant gave her. In her dying days she embraced her future with confidence and instilled hope to many that have lingering doubts about their eternal resting place.

My prayers and condolences go out to Senator George Runner, the family, Sharon's community and our state.

Never consumed by power, title or privilege, Sharon Runner is what we all should aspire to be – humble public servants.

I may sit at her desk, but I aspire to fill her shoes as well – as a father, husband, friend and mentor.

God bless Sharon Runner.”