You may not have heard his name before, but if anyone deserves the title, ACCPF Champion, Matt Plate richly deserves it. A resident of American Canyon since 1995, Matt moved here, with his wife, Anne Garner. “Anne and I were looking around for a house and happened on American Canyon. We had talked about moving up here. I had to work in a lab in Sacramento and she worked in San Francisco and we were talking about living somewhere in between. We were thinking about Vallejo or Walnut Creek.
Matt is from Santa Barbara and went to high school in Fountain Valley, and graduated in 1985. He went to UC Santa Barbara for two years and met Anne there. “We both showed up to our first class a half hour early which tells you a bit about our personalities.” Not yet a couple, Matt transferred to UC-Irvine to finish college while Anne went to UC-Santa Cruz. Plate majored in Biological Sciences, graduating in 1990.
“I had a friend who was getting his degree at Cal State Hayward and while I was visiting him, I called up my old friend (Anne) from UC-Santa Barbara and we started hanging out.” By that time, Anne was living in San Francisco and working for a law firm. Matt was working as a chemist in Garden Grove at the time.
“We dated a little bit at college, but
just friends, then got back together in 1994.” While he was working in Garden Grove, Matt applied for and got a job with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a contractor. “In 1995, the government shut down and I got laid off. Then I worked in Napa as a research chemist for a semiconductor company. I had a friend who suggested I apply for an opening in the EPA, but I wasn’t really serious about it. I was offered the position so I had to decide which job I wanted.
“I knew at the EPA I wasn’t going to be asked to do anything unethical. I was an environmental scientist, the same title I have now”–the position he has held since 1997.
“We oversee all environmental measurements that happen for California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii, Guam and the Pacific Islands. My job is that anytime our government gives money to anybody or people send us data that we need to make decisions about, they have to send us a plan that we have to approve. We had a staff of 15 but now it’s 7. The budget keeps getting cut. It started under Clinton. People don’t want to approve deficit budgets and don’t want to raise taxes.”
Though it’s sometimes frustrating, “I love what I do,” Matt is quick to say. “It’s good, I have a lot of opportunities to do different things. I like helping out, being productive and helping the environment, understanding environmental data.”
Asked what projects come to mind that he is particularly proud of, Plate is quick to reference an Army project–Johnson Atoll–and chemical weapons facilities and methods for testing chemical weapons.
“Under the treaty we have with Russia, we had to destroy all our chemical weapons stockpiles. Our biggest stockpile was at Johnson Atoll.” Plate not only got to visit the Atoll in person, he also got to go to Midway Island, a famous WWII battle site.
When Plate moved to American Canyon, he and Anne got involved in several community groups, including Cocoa Kids, where kids going to Vintage High School and/or Silverado Middle School in Napa were served cocoa.
“When the city started the Parks Commission, I knew Brent Anderson and I got on the commission in 1997. I was on the Parks Commission forever. I was the chair of the commission and thank God, Beth Goff came along because I did not want to be the chair. As the chair, you are not supposed to talk and I love to talk in these meetings.”
“Janelle (Sellick) (used to) chair the meetings and she loves to talk, but she breaks the rules!” Platte says with a smile. “During that time we did not have a parks master plan for the city. When I got here, the city had a population of 7,000 and we had tons of parks. Keep in mind where the middle school is was a park.
“When I got here there were probably 15 acres per 1,000 people in park space. Now the standard is 5 acres per 1,000. There was a Parks District and a Water District and they were together in American Canyon.
“I kept pushing for a parks master plan and finally the Parks director said ‘we need to have a master plan for parks in American Canyon. The Commission put the master plan together, and I must say it was great working with the different folks in American Canyon.
“One of the aspects of the master plan was finance,” Matt adds. “No one wanted to be on a finance committee, so I took this on. In researching this, I discovered that one of the things we could do was have a parks foundation to support parks and community activities. American Canyon did not have a parks foundation. I felt that having a parks foundation was something the parks director or someone else was going to have to get started.
“Janelle has just joined the commission and she read the master plan and thought, ‘This is great. We can do this.’
“I’m not Janelle, I’m an introvert,” Matt is quick to offer. “So Janelle took that opportunity and ran with it. I worked with her and she found the people to help, including Belia Ramos. A lot of it was planning, meeting with the city, making sure the city was okay with what we were doing.
“I stepped down from the Planning Commission to continue serving on the board. Matt served as president of ACCPF for six years from its onset.