About Jim Wilson
When you meet Jim Wilson, you’ll be impressed by his manner. He’s quick to smile and enjoys a debate that is about something important. When you ask him a question, he becomes focused, sometimes eyes closed, as he searches his memory for the right and complete answer. He’s not given to quick superficial answers but, taking care to respect the other person, provides accurate and complete responses. The quick smile is just the surface of a person with commitment to analytical rigor and ethical purpose. His background is an unusual combination of experiences and competencies that prepared him for leadership in conservation. His degree in Food Science enables him to understand the production processes in the wine business. While his career in quality assurance for Anheuser-Busch gives him the statistical and logical experience to get to root causes. And his spiritual studies give him a purpose beyond exploitation of resources for human consumption.
Jim was “accidentally” born in Napa at Parks Victory Hospital, as his parents were on their way home from Clear Lake to Vallejo. His family moved to Napa when he was in high school, where he enrolled in Justin-Sienna High School. Even though his family was Episcopalian, Jim’s parents felt that he would benefit from an educational environment that was rigorous and disciplined. Jim feels fortunate to have had this experience for the knowledge and moral foundations they provided. He does admit, however, to coming to that appreciation some time after graduating!
While growing up in Napa, Jim worked at Piner’s as an orderly, was a summer lifeguard, and volunteered at the Napa State Hospital with developmentally disabled men. His father was a psychiatric social worker, and Jim inherited a sense of responsibility to help people in need.
Growing up in Auburn, CA, with a scoutmaster father, Jim and his brother would hike the trails from Squaw Valley to Forestville. They became aware of the need to maintain trails and leave nature as they found it. They also became aware that there are times when we need to give nature a break from us, as nature has a right to exist, reproduce and thrive. He became especially aware of this when fishing with his own son in Napa Valley and finding that the tributaries to the Napa River were closed to fishing to allow for the recovery of fish species. He noted that fishermen, even people working in bait and tackle stores, support these closures for the sake of balance and recovery. Ownership of land that includes rivers does not take precedence over the right of nature to recover.
Jim earned his BS in Food Science from U.C. Davis, but did not follow a traditional path. He spent time at Cal. He then spent time in Germany learning the language, poetry, and winemaking, before transferring to Davis to complete his degree. Along the way, he found a high school girl friend and married her. Leonore was a UCSC student and transferred to Davis where they married and started their family. Leonore is a poet and writer.
Jim was fortunate to have been taught and mentored by very influential figures at Davis and in Germany. His time at Davis was challenging because he had to work to pay his way through. They managed apartments, including doing all the repairs and collecting the rent. He had a full load as a handyman while he was a student.
Food science is quantitative and requires experimental rigor, given that the processes are complex. It requires chemistry, physics, engineering, statistics, and an appreciation that the end product has to provide a subjective sensory experience. Later in his professional career Jim earned certifications in risk analysis and quality engineering. Jim considers himself lucky to have been taught by some of the greats in the winemaking and brewing world, including Otto Becker, Vern Singleton, Roger Boulton and Michael Lewis.
Upon graduation, Jim was hired by Anheuser-Busch in Fairfield where he worked as the Brewing QA manager for much of his career. As a quality engineer. Jim lead a zero-waste effort to assure that the plant did not waste any water in its high volume processes, not a drop.
In his 30s, Jim embraced his faith and became an active participant in the Catholic Church. For him, science and faith are complementary. He co-founded and led the Laudato Si’ Creation Care ministry at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Napa. This follows Pope Francis’ encyclical to be faithful stewards of creation and address environmental challenges. Pope Francis clearly stated every Christian’s responsibility to care for creation and help the earth heal from man’s impacts. The concept of stewardship holds that title to property does not give the owner unlimited rights to harm the environment or deprive the land of actions that contribute to the overall balance of nature.
Defending the environment is a responsibility driven by faith and morality, the science details what the damages and processes are and how we can remediate the human impact on the environment. Jim’s scientific skills and religious calling are therefore complementary.
Jim and Leonore live on Monticello Road, ten miles from Napa, in the oak woodlands of Capell Valley. You’re greeted by a massive blue oak when you make it to the top of their driveway. Their living room window looks out on Walt Ranch, the rolling hills covered in oaks that provide the upstream watershed for Milliken Creek and for Capell creek. They have three sons, Dalziel, Hardy and Ernest, who share their parents’ reverence of nature and concern for its protection.
Focus and purpose
Jim’s commitment to environmental sustainability drives him to be a community activist and an educator. As a climate literacy advocate he teaches the latest concepts in climate responsibility in local schools. He has thoroughly researched the benefits of a healthy woodland ecosystem and developed the expertise to inform his activities and his teaching. While the Initiative focuses on the water security that woodlands provide to the aquifer and the valley below, carbon sequestration, air cleansing, and biodiversity are other products of a healthy forest. Jim wants to help educate citizens of Napa County so they will make more informed decisions about development and conservation.
Jim is an unusual person. In his commitment to the science, morality, aesthetics, and benefit of wise environmental management, he recalls the contributions of John Muir - his relentless pursuit of community action to save the environment is a gift to the community he serves.