Who are YLPers? Why, all of us who call Yosemite Lakes Park our home. We’re more than an HOA, we are a community of people who love where we live!
More than just a place of majestic mountain views, YLP is people — individuals of all backgrounds and interests. In this series of periodic profiles, we hope to introduce you to many of these folks — to YLOA board members, to managers, to employees, to our valued volunteers and notable neighbors who share our 21 square miles of Sierra foothills. We hope you enjoy learning about these YLPers.
This week it’s Ken Sartain, a member of the YLOA and YSPUC Board of Directors, a dedicated volunteer and community contributor.
Tell us about your early life
[He grew up with his family in the Los Altos area between San Francisco and San Jose in the ‘50s when it was mostly orchards.]
My parents were both working class and they always instilled in my siblings and myself a strong work ethic, all the kids learned that if you want to make something of yourself that you would work, it was just a given.
[He has an older brother and two older sisters. When he was about 8 and they were in their teens] we all went and picked (sweet) corn…. That was my first real exposure to work.
A story my mother liked to tell….When I was about 3 years old, this is probably in the 1953 time frame, they had bought the first TV in the neighborhood. So it’s a pretty big deal for that time! One day my mother came into the room, and she called my name, “Where are you?” She said I didn’t answer right away then popped my head up. I was behind the TV set. And I had gotten one of my dad’s screwdrivers and I was proceeding to take the back of the TV off and she says, “What are you doing!?” And I said “I’m fixing it!” It was good timing on her part. Had I succeeded it might not have ended well. So that curiosity about how things work and “fixing” things has always been a pattern in my life to this day.
What about your schooling, what did you want to be?
School was something that I didn’t have much interest in other than, you know, if I could learn something that did interest me, then I would get really good grades. So I got through high school just average, nothing particularly great. During high school, I actually I took a lot of drawing and industrial design classes and that sort of thing.
[Coming of age during the Vietnam War, he received a draft notice but both of his parents were opposed to the war and he registered as a conscientious objector, doing alternate service as a teacher’s assistant in an autistic children’s care facility.]
In the early ’70s, My aunt had left me a small amount of money so I decided I wanted to be in the restaurant business. I opened up a deli, really small. Then I opened a restaurant and also had a catering business on the side. It got too much for me handle after a few years so it was time to move on.
Since I always loved the industrial arts and working with mechanical stuff. I managed to get myself into Stanford School of Engineering at the High-Temperature Gasdynamics laboratory which suited me very well. I worked on an extremely dynamic and potentially dangerous large scale research project call magnetohydrodynamics. It’s a method that basically uses a rocket engine to fire a hot plasma through a high-powered magnetic field to extract electrical energy. When we got it going, the whole building shook! It was actually one of the few things that we did with the Soviets as a co-research project and one of the earliest projects for alternate energy sources.
Silicon Valley at the time, in the ‘70s, was booming. There were startups going left and right. I got a phone call from a small company that had a technology that they had patented — a self-regulating heating technology. Their main product was a high-tech soldering tool, which was used quite a bit in the (electronics) industry at that time. They hired me to find new ways to use the technology. Also, there I helped invent a new way to join pipe by heat fusion. I work there for a few years and then a new opportunity presented itself.
I became a laboratory manager of startup company that made flow meters. That lasted a few years and it was time to move on to bigger and better things and I began working at a large semiconductor equipment manufacturer, Applied Materials, as a senior reliability engineer for a new division. I was the fifth employee hired. We came out with a new machine for manufacturing flat panels — so that screen that you have on your computer, I had a fairly large part in engineering the machinery that manufactures them. This job brought me to about 2006 where another opportunity came up.
I went back to Stanford where I began, I loved working there before, so I’ll work there again. I worked for the last 10 years of my career at Stanford Linear Accelerator Center Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory which is a Department of Energy National Laboratory. My years of management and technical experience was a good match there.
I was incredibly lucky as I had really good, interesting jobs my whole career.
How about your family life?
[In his early career, he bought a fixer-upper in Redwood City and ended up building it anew for his family.]
[He is quite proud of his two grown children, Loren and Brian.] My son is a supervisor for a large electrical contracting company. Right now, he’s working on a new Facebook building. My daughter was in marketing for years, then left to go to beauty college… and now has her own salon in Burlingame.
Michele came into the picture when they were pretty young, 8 and 10 years old. She had a successful childcare business, …. We met on the internet back in the days of AOL, when you have to dial up your modem, you know, and we met in a chat room. She lived in Missouri and I lived in California and, yeah, so that’s how we got started. We just celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary.
What brought you to YLP and when?
Before I retired we looked for land or house up here because it was centrally located…. Michele’s family is down in L.A. and mine’s up in the Bay Area. So we kind of got the map out and zeroed in on this area. And we started coming up here on a very regular basis, hunting for places. That was about 10 years ago…. We ended up buying some acreage with the idea that we would build something in a few years.
[Then they got a house in YLP. Michele moved in and Ken commuted to Stanford, coming home on weekends.]
We wanted to be close to the city but yet far enough away that was more country. So Michele came up with the saying “YLP is Country Lite.”
What have you learned in your time on the YLOA board?
I hadn’t given much thought about becoming a board member but Marie Touitou gave me a call one day and she says, you know, you ought to think about getting on the board and I said no, I just don’t want to do that. Social media was cranking up then and there were a few people that were complaining about various things… I just didn’t want to put up with it.
But when the elections came along, I thought what the heck and threw my hat in. It was a big surprise when I did get on the board because I didn’t realize how bad a shape the place was in. Having some business background and running projects and that sort of thing, I had a pretty good idea of what’s good and what’s bad on the balance sheet and the place was a train wreck.
I thought…We’ve got our new manager now and the guy seems pretty sharp. Maybe I can contribute something to this place. As it turns out, Jonathan is probably the best thing that ever happened to this place. I mean, I’ve known a lot of exceptionally smart people, I’ve been blessed to be in different industries with highly educated, just plain brilliant people and he’s right up there with them. So, I really respect him for what he’s done. I mean previously we literally had to use cash in order to pay for things and now we’ve got money in the bank and the improvements that we’ve made, just really a game-changer for improving our community.
What would you tell others who may want to run for the board?
There’s a time commitment there, you know that? You can put in a minimal amount. We’ve had some board members that have done that or you can really throw yourself into it. It depends on how you feel about it and how much time you have. For me, it’s turned into a job of sorts, but one that I enjoy doing, because I know what I’m doing is for the good of the community.
[For people who move here] I would encourage them to get involved. I mean, it’s easy just to sit back and, you know, live on your own piece of the world. But put yourself out there, you might find yourself getting a lot of satisfaction from what you do.
What do you desire for YLP?
I think our strategy for The Five-Year Plan is really great. The first part of it is that we do the things that we can do and with the money that we have; they’re not little projects, but they’re not huge projects either. So we were able to fix up the clubhouse and stop the deterioration. I personally know that there was a lot of structural damage in the clubhouse and amenities that needed to be taken care of. So all this work benefits everyone by raising property values and just makes it a nicer place to live.
As Board members, It’s our fiduciary duty to take care of the place, like keep the infrastructure in good shape, and a duty I take seriously. Of course that takes money…. And Jonathan is always looking for ways to cut costs, or move money from one place to another, where it has the most impact. People need to understand a budget is a guideline and not a strict path. We need to be especially flexible as this is a very dynamic world we live in now.
[Also] I think that we can do a better job of communicating to the community, and we are working on that. We have this huge long-term project, replacing pipes and replacing roads which are hugely expensive and we get no assistance from our tax dollars from the government. We don’t qualify for government funding because we’re a private entity. So we have to do it all on our own and it’s going to take a long time to do and it’s going to be very, very expensive to do but it’s something that needs to get done.
One of the things the board and management has done is the formation of YLP Cares [which] I think is probably one of the most important things that we’ve done. We created it as a way for people to not feel so pressured if they are having a hard time paying their dues or paying their water bill.
We finally have gotten it rolling as a nonprofit separate from YLP. A lot of the community, the directors and employees also contributed to the funding of it. I’m really thrilled and happy that we’re able to do that and I encourage the community to not only contribute to it, but partake of it if they need help, don’t be shy. That’s why it’s there. We did it because once again we want everybody to be included.
What are your outside interests?
There’s still a lot of things I have ideas that when I get the time I’m going to work on inventions and tinkering in my shop. And there’s always a project around the house. Also, Michele and I like traveling and hope to do more.
I went fishing with Doug [Dorsey], first time in years, really enjoyed that, went out on Bass Lake. I enjoyed hiking. You know, I used to be an avid backpacker but haven’t done that in a while.
For now though, I have lots of YLP projects that keep me busy!
PREVIOUS POSTS IN THIS SERIES
Jonathan Penrose, YLOA-YSPUC General Manager
Sandy Eigenman, YLOA president 2020-21