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Josh Epstein accepts nomination for Cal4Wheel president

I've always been the guy who goes above and beyond with anything I do — I immerse myself in all I do and give it 110%, always. Why do it if you’re just going to half-ass it? I kept thinking about that when I started my column this issue and revised it over and over as an attempt to make it perfect. This is a pretty big column for me this month and may affect my life dramatically for the foreseeable future, allow me to explain…

I was 12 when I got hooked into off-roading when I heard a mechanic neighbor of mine talking about Jeeps and this cool trail called the Rubicon that he took his Jeep on and if I ever got the chance, I should go. I soon figured out a way to buy that Jeep, an old 1978 Jeep Grand Cherokee which has an entire story of its own. This eventually introduced me to my future wife and future uncle in-law, Mike Hardy, who is a member of the Hemet Jeep Club (HJC). I was mesmerized by long tales the Hemet Jeep Club and its rich history dating back to 1948, hearing of Cal4Wheel, along with its own rich history and how the HJC is a charter member of Cal4Wheel. Eventually, his stories motivated me to become a member of the Hemet Jeep Club and eventually hold the position of president.

One fateful year, I was chosen to be the delegate for the Hemet Jeep Club and went to my first Cal4Wheel convention in Sacramento, where I dragged along fellow club member (and C4W alum/long-time volunteer of C4W) Mike Ledbetter for moral support. I was nervous for the upcoming weekend since I had no idea what to expect and felt like I would be excluded the entire weekend being the ‘new guy’ — what a complete opposite experience I had.

I was taken aback by the generosity of everyone I met. From the people at registration, to every member we ran into that knew Mike and the overall camaraderie of all that were there. I saw members like Peety Woll (North District VP at the time), Bonnie Ferguson (South District secretary), Jim Bramham (North District VP/past president), and the very first president of this association Steve Morris walking the hallways. I thought how cool they seemed in the sense that they were part of the board of directors, something bigger than me and my club and how they were making a change and how they were fighting to keep the public lands open that I love. I was also lucky enough to hear Steve Morris speak that weekend and was mesmerized by his speech. By some dumb luck, I ran into Mr. Morris in a hallway where we had a great conversation about the association, and my home club, which he regaled stories from the past that I soaked up like a sponge. That changed my life and my love for this association.

One fateful afternoon that weekend at convention, I ran into this guy Alan Bauer (former South District VP) and started chatting it up with him. Soon thereafter, Alan and the association had their hooks in me, and I ran for the South District membership chair position. My first board meeting after being voted in was a great experience. Bonnie Steele made me feel comfortable and took me under her wing to explain all about the association that at the time I had very little knowledge of, and helped me (even to this day) figure out this fascinating new job and association with an unbelievably rich history.

Time eventually passed and Alan had to move due to work. I spent some sleepless nights thinking about the possibility of becoming the South District VP. After talking to other board members, my family and friends within the association, I decided to move forward and become the South District vice president. I am so very proud of being the South District vice president and now know without a doubt it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Why am I writing all of this? Everyone that has ever been or is currently on the board understands this underlying feeling of commitment and pride working with this great association. I have been lucky to have some great leadership in front of me and unbelievable past leadership to learn from and to work with. I feel that the time is now to continue where our President Jack Chapman has led us. Therefore, I accepted the nomination this past last month at the South District meeting and am officially announcing my campaign for the presidency of California Four Wheel Drive Association.

I feel it’s time for me to lead this great association into the future and onto its next chapter. As I write this, Jack has accepted a nomination for a second term and Past President Robert Reed has also accepted a nomination. I feel that Mr. Reed is the past, Mr. Chapman is status quo and I, could be the future. All the past presidents have done a great job leading the association to where we are today through horrible financial years, low membership numbers and even Covid-19!

I wish to continue where they left off, but also bring the association back to its roots in land use and battling to keep our public lands, public, while embracing new technology and ideas to implement this vision. All of which revolves around better appreciation of and help from all of our hard-working volunteers who work tirelessly at our state events and shows all over state promoting Cal4Wheel, whom I feel don’t get the immense amount of credit they deserve.

I want to work with the other organizations and individuals to help with this never-ending battle regarding land use, but also want to remember how we got here in the first place by querying our past leaders and working with our board to engage with the general membership and life members to have a clear line of communication from the president and board of directors, which seems to have failed in the past few years; communication is key to everything.

I feel that we should be working more directly with the life members, communicate more often and together, to make this association greater than it has ever been. The life members have been integral in past years, and we need to remember our past, like how the life members made it possible to purchase the Win-A-Jeep this year after a very turbulent 2020, where events and shows we relied on were canceled due to C19. How many of you know that if it weren't for the life members, we wouldn't have this wonderful building here in Sacramento? I can't thank the life members enough for what they have done and continue to do. I truly think they are an invaluable asset that the association doesn't utilize as much as they should, where we could easily work together for the future and do great things for this association!

Leadership comes from the front and sets the pace for the rest of the board of directors — not pointing fingers from the back of the pack. True leadership holds itself accountable for mistakes and is fully transparent with its constituents. True leadership is what this association needs, not management. The most efficient work is done between board meetings, not at them. This is where I feel I shine above and beyond. I feel that I can lead this great association more effectively and efficiently.

Why me? What have I’ve done? Why am I asking for your consideration?

First off, I'm not perfect, I have made some and am going to make some mistakes. The difference is, I learn from my mistakes and own up to them, not pass the buck. I want to work more closely with the board, the membership and moreover, follow through with what is promised and discussed. I feel that many empty promises have been made to the membership and just swept under the rug. I will hold myself and the board accountable for every decision and will provide you a clear, open line of communication to not only myself, but the board.

Most of you have no idea who I am other than a guy who writes an article every other month. Trying to write about why you should pick me other than someone else is incredibly hard. I have worked many a booth as SD membership chair and SDVP. I have made it my mission to attend every Zoom meeting regarding land use in the past 18 months in the absence of our NRC’s as to try and fill a gap until those positions are filled. I also had a small part in building last year’s Win-A-Jeep. I didn’t want that great honor to seem like a platform for my potential presidency, but I feel that it holds validity, I did it because it was the right thing to do, I had the skill and shop to make it happen. I have owned and operated my company for the past 22 years in Hemet, California. I have supported wife Christina and three kids, aged 12, 10 and 5 (at this point in their lives, they’re more concerned with Christmas than my potential presidency). I was the chair of the 2020 and 2021 Hi Desert Round-Up, and will be co-chair for HDR 2022. I was the co-chair to Operation Desert Fun last year and was the trail boss coordinator this year. C19 prevented me from attending as many meetings as I wanted to attend, but now that’s subsided somewhat, I’m working on getting to the club meetings. I plan to attend as many meetings as I can while on the board, even if I don’t get your vote in February. I want you to know that I really do care about your clubs and your concerns. Perception and reality is a big thing and I want to change your perception of not only me, but the association too!

I feel I have a great rapport with everyone on the board and in the association that I have come in contact with. This is greatly important as to be more efficient and productive which has been an issue in the past. I feel that my leadership style will not only motivate people but allow them to have a good time while doing it. I feel that I’m the best choice to motivate and lead this association onto the next chapter by knowing our history, knowing our members and being the leader you all deserve, so when our kids/grandkids are looking back in 20 years, there will be a larger, more efficient Cal4Wheel, and more open, public land for their children to enjoy!

My goals are simple:

  • Increase membership by using new/existing technology to promote C4W by using the brand that we already have and make it more noticeable, more relevant, and more exciting. There are too many people who don’t know what C4W is or stands for and that needs to change.
  • Work with the board, not against it. I feel I am the best choice to bring unity within the board since I bring a unique leadership style rather than management, which promotes excitement and pride, rather than distaste and content.
  • Make land advocacy a priority and bring that feeling of pride of membership back to C4W. Bring that excitement about becoming a C4W member by changing the perception of C4W being old and outdated, to an organization with a rich history and a bright future.
  • Build up our events and membership, increase attendance at the events to help generate revenue to help with our core mission, land advocacy and increase membership statewide by better public relations and the image of our great association.

In closing, I'm not perfect. I cannot do this alone. I'll lean on all the members of the board of directors to help bring this vision to fruition by working together by being unified. This position is bigger than just one person; it's going take the entire association with potential criticism and ideas on how to move forward from the membership. I’ll be the person to listen and work with each and every one of you. I’m not doing this for myself, to enlarge my ego or put a notch in my belt, I’m doing it for the association; C4W needs a true, humble leader.

Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions or concerns, please, feel free to email me: sdvp@cal4wheel.com Please query the other candidates too! Make sure whoever you choose to lead you in February is the best fit for your needs.

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