The Kenwood Press
: 05/01/2012

Mark Randol: Profile of a Baby Boomer

Yvonne Frauenfelder

His hair is not gray, nor is his forehead wrinkled. He is of strong voice and steady pace. He projects an image of self-confidence and reliability. And he does not appear bothered by the recent failure to win a seat on OVA’s Board of Directors; on the contrary, plans are already being laid for a run next year.

Politics and government are life’s twin preoccupations for Mark Randol, and his last responsibilities were as Senior Specialist for Domestic Intelligence and Counter Terrorism at the Congressional Research Service in Washington, D.C.

Raised in Southern California and Humboldt County, Randol joined the Air Force at age 17, spending four years mostly abroad. Leaving the Service, he enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley and graduated in political science and world politics. After completing the ROTC program, he returned to the Air Force as an intelligence officer with duties in Korea and the National Security Agency.

In 1984, he began his civil service career in a pioneering capacity in counter terrorism at the Pentagon. Additional assignments included the Federal Aviation and the Transportation Security Administrations.

Randol was able to retire after 35 years of service at age 57, when he and his wife started looking for a place to settle down. A friend told them about Oakmont, which they both embraced with enthusiasm. They were surprised at the relatively low cost of real estate, which enabled them to buy a home in our village, while awaiting the sale of their old house in Virginia.

Randol is enchanted by Sonoma and in particular with the Valley of the Moon. He has difficulty understanding why people do not turn out en-masse to relocate to Oakmont. He feels that if the soon-to-be retirees, working for the government in Washington, were better informed about our area, they would come and visit and stay by the hundreds. Too many people, alas, equate Napa and Sonoma with Malibu and the associated high cost of living.

Randol said he would like to change that perception. How about a D.C. advertising campaign for Oakmont? Our promoter is not certain how the OVA Board would react to such a proposal.

After a life filled to the brim with intriguing and fascinating experiences, is Randol bored by our tranquil and bucolic life? Not at all. He teaches online courses in Homeland Security and counterintelligence at Eastern Kentucky University, explaining to his students the difference between homegrown terrorists, motivated by either left or right wing ideologies, and those would-be-criminals influenced by foreign hatred of our country. He sees online learning an important element in the future of education. It allows military personnel and other students to move from location to location without losing their chosen curriculum.

The conversation about politics and foreign affairs turned to Oakmont’s internal concerns; and as a past and future candidate for the OVA Board of Directors, he, naturally, has his own thoughts about certain matters.

“I talk with a lot of people,” Randol said, “The residents are concerned about the changes in accounting services; they are upset about the closing of a path to Annadel; and they were aggrieved over the reduction of medical benefits to employees’ relatives. It centers not so much on the decisions the Board has made, but rather that many residents believe the community was not provided with adequate and timely information explaining the rationale for those determinations.”

“It is not enough to say: ‘Come to the Board meetings and read the Minutes.’ The document has to reflect the intent behind the action; the substance of the discussions has to be made clear.

“What the OVA needs is to initiate “Strategic Communication”, which simply means explaining to the residents the facts and the underlying conditions which lead to actions taken and decisions made.

“If, for instance, bids cannot be made public, then explain to the people the reasons for keeping them privileged. If a path has to be closed, be forthcoming, as soon as possible, with the circumstances and the pertinent details.”

On an upbeat note, Randol closed his remarks with the observation that it is wonderful to have Boomers live side by side with an earlier generation. “Where can you attend rock concerts and symphony orchestras in the same small village? What community offers as much in music, sports, dances and gourmet dinners, classes and lectures as Oakmont?” For this Baby Boomer, our home has become a paradise in which to grow older productively and very much engaged with a new environment.