Beyond the Boardroom

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Jill Techel

Author: Alexandra Russell
May, 2016 Issue

Before being elected mayor of Napa in 2005, Jill Techel took a circuitous route to Wine Country politics. Born and raised in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Techel graduated from the University of North Dakota with a degree in social work before heading west to Salem, Oregon.
“My first job after college was as a professional Girl Scout in Salem, training volunteers and working with the summer camp programs. I transferred to the Napa-Solano area and that’s how I came to Napa,” she says. “I retired for 20 years to raise my children and spent the time volunteering in the community. I was Browns Valley Family Club president, Napa High School Booster Club secretary, chairwoman of the Napa Parks and Recreation Commission and a member of the Alzheimer Support Group Board when I took care of my mother for eight years.”
What got you interested in local politics?
My father was very involved in community activities and politics in Grand Forks and he modeled the way for me. He was president of the School Board and handed me my diploma when I graduated. I was president of the School Board when my kids graduated, and I also got to hand them their diplomas.
What are the hardest and best things about your job?
The hardest, initially, was the earthquake. There was so much to do and so many people needing help. Napans really showed how they support each other, and the community came back from that disaster. The best thing is helping people solve problems, and it makes me very proud to represent Napa. It’s also great when the lobbying in D.C. pays off in local projects getting funding.
Do you have a big family?
I have two kids, Eric and Kristen. Eric lives in San Carlos and is a partner in Capricorn Management in Palo Alto; Kristen lives in Oakland and has her own beverage law firm in San Francisco, Strike and Techel. I have three grandkids. Carter and Donovan are 9. and their brother Grant is 5. I’ll be a grandma again in August, and I’m so looking forward to that!
What do you love to do outside of work?
I love the statement, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” I think that describes me. I do try and see the grandsons one day each week, and that provides some balance. They aren’t quite sure what mayors do, but they like being in parades and handing out candy.
What’s your favorite dessert?
Vanilla bean ice cream is always a hit with me. I also think fun presentations make dessert even more special—like the frozen lollipops made at your table at Eiko’s or the flaming chocolate marshmallow dessert at Morimoto.
Are you a creature of habit?
I think I would be, but my life changes every day. I think that keeps me from getting into ruts. New challenges and new opportunities are important in keeping us flexible.
What childhood accident stands out for you?
When I was 7 years old, I was ice skating in my backyard on New Year’s Day when I fell and broke my leg. I was in a cast for six weeks, and I remember it being very itchy.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I couldn’t imagine doing what I do now when I was young. There were no women in politics—and certainly no women mayors in my community. A lot has happened in 50 years. My mom went to bridge club, golfed and got her hair done once per week. I guess I thought that’s what I would do, too.
What your favorite music?
I love the music of the 1960s, and I love to dance to the old rock ‘n’ roll hits. I still have the same moves I had in high school (or so my kids tell me).
What’s your greatest extravagance?
My personal trainer, Beth Rypins, at Wine Country Cross Fit: I pay her good money to keep me flexible and strong—and I love when it’s over.
If you could solve and unsolved crime, what would you want to know?
Who stole the moose head? [In 2015, an iconic community monument, a tree branch shaped like a moose head] was sawed off and stolen on New Year’s Eve. It was returned six weeks later to my driveway. No one knows who took it, or why my driveway was the safe haven for its return.



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