The text came in at 6:04 tonight, just as I was beginning the final hour of my radio show. “Unconfirmed report that Adam Hill is dead.” I spent the next 15 minutes multi-tasking; continuing a conversation about the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima with my guest, while actively scanning local news sites for something, anything. Confirmation came through about 6:20 and, stunned, I finally shared the news with my listeners right after the break.
Since then, the calls, texts, emails, and FB messages have been piling up nonstop. “Have you heard the news? What do you think, Dave? WTF?” seems to be the general theme. I guess people want to hear from me because, after all, Adam and I had a history.
This is not the moment to rehash those fifteen years, that never-ending emotional rollercoaster ride. We can debate the pros and cons of 3rd District Supervisor Adam Hill down the road, when the passage of time offers an unvarnished perspective.
Tonight, I’m thinking more about the Adam I first met in 2005 when I was doing a remote broadcast from the Avila Fish & Farmers’ Market. Adam wandered over during a commercial break and introduced himself–Cal Poly English lecturer and board chair for the SLO County Food Bank. He swung back by later and introduced me to his wife Ginny. I liked them both right away. Adam impressed me with his intelligence and passion. Who was this guy?
So it wasn’t surprising that Adam became part of the radio show–a regular guest on the issues of the day and eventually a rotating guest host. He was Smart. Articulate. Impressive. We quickly included the wives and soon it was Dave & Charlotte & Adam & Ginny gathering for Mexican food in Pismo, easily a dozen times. We exchanged Christmas cards. They came to Nipomo for our first Open House. It all seemed natural. And fun.
I wasn’t surprised when Adam decided to run for office and challenge Jerry Lenthall for county supervisor in 2008. We thought he would win, but certainly not by 18 points. We knew he had the capacity to be a great supervisor. All he had to do was be that same Adam Hill we had known for the previous three years.
I’ll stop there. For now. The post-2008 record is fairly well documented. Our relationship deteriorated and eventually became downright combative, culminating in my becoming a reluctant issue in Adam’s 2020 re-election campaign. But none of that matters tonight as word of Adam’s passing spreads around the county. Much will be written. Much will be debated.
I almost reached out to Adam after the suicide attempt last March, a nod to better days, but I honestly didn’t know what to say, nor was I sure about how such a gesture would be received. After all, I’ve been on the receiving end of too many Supervisor Hill emails over the years and it was never a pleasant experience. I did not disturb the sleeping dog.
Adam Hill is dead. I’m sad because I recall the young Cal Poly teacher, passionate about poetry and politics, funny and engaging. Full of promise and energy. I’m frustrated because all the mental health professionals in the county couldn’t save Adam. And I regret that we were never able to sit down and talk out our differences. This is not how I wanted our story to end.
He was an Icarus who eventually flew too close to the sun.
But how he soared. How high he flew.