A Kennewick lawyer with deep ties to the Mid-Columbia is the most recent addition to the Columbia Basin College Board of Trustees.
Salvador Mendoza was appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire to replace longtime member Salvador Beltran on the board that governs the college.
Beltran had served for 10 years. Trustees only can be appointed to two five-year terms. They are entitled to receive $40 per meeting, but Mendoza has elected not to take that money.
Mendoza, who will turn 40 in a couple of weeks, grew up in the Yakima Valley. His parents were migrant farmworkers, and the young Mendoza had to cut short his school days to pick apples and asparagus, he said.
"Somehow, by the grace of God, I managed to graduate from Prosser High," Mendoza said with a laugh.
It's likely that his own work ethic had something to do with it too -- Mendoza went on to the University of Washington and the University of California, Los Angeles, where he earned a law degree in 1997.
Before he even passed his bar exam, Mendoza already got a job working for then-Attorney General Chris Gregoire. The job in the AG's office changed his life in more ways that one -- Mendoza met his wife, Mia, who also is an attorney, in that office.
The couple now have three children.
In 1998, Mendoza came back to the Mid-Columbia, as deputy prosecutor in Franklin County. He soon set up a private practice in Kennewick, specializing in criminal law.
Mendoza works in several volunteer organizations, like United Way, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Legal Aid of Benton and Franklin Counties.
"I think I have a responsibility to be involved in the community, especially as a lawyer," he said. "You have to put your money where your mouth is."
Mendoza also is a main organizer of the Youth and Justice Forum, which seeks to get young people interested in a career in legal professions. His being on the CBC board is an extension of that work, he said.
"It's an opportunity to help young people think about careers," Mendoza said.
It will be a struggle, as state budgets for higher education keep getting slashed.
"Given the (financial) climate, maintaining a strong college will be the biggest challenge," Mendoza said.
That challenge is made easier by CBC President Rich Cummins, he said.
The attorney who already is involved in several unpaid endeavors will have to stretch his usual 12-hour days a little more. The partners in his law firm "understand and support" his need to spend hours away from the office to help out in the community, Mendoza said.
Mia, his wife and fellow attorney, fills in at his law office when her husband is out working for free.
"I'll have to be really nice to my wife," he said.