Assemblymember Robert Rivas has a history of service and dedication to his community. Prior to being elected to represent the 30th District in the California State Assembly, he served two terms on the San Benito County Board of Supervisors. While serving as a supervisor, Rivas also worked as a student support manager at San Benito High School and taught at Gavilan College. Prior to his election to the board, Rivas served as an EMT and paid call firefighter.
Rivas was raised in Paicines, California, where his grandfather was a farmworker at Almaden Vineyards. Rivas and his brother Rick grew up in farmworker housing, cared for by their single mother and beloved grandparents, who emigrated from Mexico to San Benito County in the early 1960s.
Rivas’ grandfather taught him the importance of service on behalf of the community. Through him, Rivas learned that you could fight fiercely for your beliefs, while respecting those with whom you disagreed. Still, it seemed unlikely Rivas would become a community leader, at least not if doing so required public speaking. For much of his childhood he struggled to overcome a severe stutter that rendered him almost speechless. His mother spent all of her savings on speech therapy, and it was only after years of hard work that Rivas was able to overcome his disability.
His childhood experiences – growing up in a farmworker community, struggling to overcome a disability – gave him a direct understanding of the challenges faced by many in our community as they work to build better lives for themselves and their families.
Rivas attended local public schools, first in San Juan Bautista and then, after the vineyard closed and his family moved, in Hollister. Inspired by his grandfather, Rivas decided to pursue a career in public service. He graduated with a Bachelor’s in Government from CSU-Sacramento and later earned a Master’s in Public Administration from San Jose State University. He moved quickly to put his ideals into practice, going to work for Assemblymember Simon Salinas and then Assemblymember Anna Caballero. These positions allowed Rivas to spend time in his community, getting to know the concerns of his neighbors and assisting the Assemblymembers in advocating for their constituents in Sacramento.
From 2008 to 2010, Rivas worked as a Senior Clerk to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, where he saw the impact supervisors can have in shaping the future of their county. In 2010, inspired by his grandfather’s legacy and encouraged by community members who had gotten to know him during his years of work in local government, Rivas declared his candidacy for San Benito County Supervisor. Voters responded to his energy and passion, and he won with over 70% of the vote.
During his service on the Board of Supervisors, Rivas fought to create more affordable housing and worked with the business community to bring jobs to San Benito County. He led efforts to repair local roads and reduce traffic congestion, and to build a flagship county library and a new county courthouse, and he became known for his fierce advocacy on behalf of the environment.