by Jeremiah Norris (Colombia 1963-65)
Sam Farr joined the Peace Corps in 1964 and served for two years as a Volunteer in Colombia. He was assigned to a poor mountain barrio near Medellin, teaching residents basic rural community development skills.
Once back home, his public service began in the California Assembly where he worked as a staffer on budget issues for a decade. In 1975, he ran for and won a seat on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors. In 1980, he was elected to the California State Assembly, where he became a champion for the organics industry and wrote one of the country’s strictest oil spill liability laws.
He served in the Assembly until his election to the Congress in 1993. It was a Special Election when former Congressman Leon Panetta resigned to become then-President Clinton’s budget director. Sam was then re-elected to his first full term in 1994. He was re-elected ten more times, often receiving some 70% of the vote.
Sam was active in several Congressional caucuses, including the House Oceans Caucus; the Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus, where he served as Co-Chair; the Congressional Bike Caucus; the Congressional Organic Caucus; the International Conservation Caucus; and the Unexploded Ordinance Caucus.
Sam was also Co-chair of the House Oceans Caucus. Each year the caucus helps sponsor Capital Oceans Week, known as CHOW, which draws hundreds of ocean experts from across the country. He served on the House Democracy Assistance Commission, a group established by the House of Representatives mandated to work with emerging democracies throughout the world. The group engages in “peer to peer” cooperation to build technical expertise in partner legislatures that enhance accountability, transparency, legislative independence, access to information and government oversight. Sam also served as the Chairman of the California Democratic Delegation, the largest State delegation in the Congress.
His Committee assignments included service with the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies in which he was the Ranking Member; and the Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies.
Sam voted against the invasion of Iraq and was actively engaged against the Iraq War. He voted against the “Authorization for use of Military Force against Iraq Resolution of 2002” that started the war. He also was vocal in efforts to prevent military action against Iran, co-sponsoring a Resolution which would require Congressional approval before any incursion into Iran.
Sam has parlayed his experience in Colombia to become a Congressional leader on Colombian affairs. He was an active supporter of rebalancing funds dedicated to Plan Colombia, the U. S. anti-drug effort, to include more support for economic redevelopment efforts. He has hosted a wide range of Colombian political leaders in his Washington office, including several former presidents.
In 2007, Sam received the Senator David Pryor Special Achievement Award for his ongoing advocacy for communities with military bases, presented by the Association of Defense Committees. The award is given to an individual who advocates for communities with active or closed military bases. They face many special concerns, from land use to economic development to ordinance disposal. As Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, he successfully increased clean-up funds for military bases closed prior to 2005.
Sam announced his retirement from Congress after the 2016 national elections. His long and consistently dedicated service was an exemplary example of commitment to our country’s ideals, earning him a Profile in Citizenship.