Trevor Albertson is the president and superintendent of Lassen Community College in Susanville, California. He is an honorably discharged Air Force veteran, and has taught at several institutions, including the U.S. Air Force Academy and the University of California. Before joining the panel for the Zócalo/California Wellness Foundation event “What Would the End of Mass Incarceration Mean for Prison Towns?,” he sat down in our green room to share with us his hidden talent, what attracted him to small-town California life, and the advice he’d give to his younger self.
What is your favorite place to go in Lassen County?
There’s a spot as you go down Highway 395, it’s before you get to Red Rock Road. You’re running along the backside of the eastern Sierra going south, and off on your right you’ll occasionally see a freight train rolling through—the old Western Pacific line; Union Pacific owns it now. And you’ll see the splotchy snow on the hills, windblown clouds if it’s spring, and you realize: this is a special place. And what’s more, along those mountains, the wolves have been making their way back into the area. It’s a reminder that things can be good once again, they can be whole once again. I think that’s something that we as a community in Susanville have to remember: There’s a brighter future out there.
If you could go back in time and tell your younger self something, what would you say?
“Don’t change a thing.” I don’t say this for self-promotion purposes, but I say this because I want other people to do it. I spent my whole life in service one way or the other. You should serve because you’re making somebody else’s life better. There’s a certain amount of self-discovery, self-confidence, and fulfillment that comes with doing something that you will never fully, tangibly benefit from.
What is one of your hidden talents?
I’m good with the cardinal directions without having a map. It’s not worth anything, but for me I like it. I could extrapolate that to say: I’m never without direction.
You mentioned you know Spanish. Where did you learn?
[Starting] all the way from elementary school, through college, and in the Air Force. I was an exchange officer to Chile and Mexico. I worked in Chile in El Bosque, near Santiago. And in Guadalajara, Mexico, in a little town. There was a lot to learn from that; the larger lessons that transcended culture itself, about the human experience, were the most important. Not just the brotherhood of all Americans, or all the Americas, but the brotherhood of all people around the world.
What attracted you to the Susanville area?
My family is from small towns. My grandfather’s family lived in a place called Lexington, Michigan, about an hour north of Detroit, on Lake Huron. He was born in 1916. If you didn’t shoot your dinner, you didn’t eat it. He came from a town not unlike this. For me, I don’t know which one of these kids is that kid, like him. But we owe it to these places, to these people. I’m just paying it back and forward.
Where can we find you on a typical Sunday?
I am at home, if not at the office. And I work on my books. I write about political diplomatic history. Colin Powell told me once, “Trevor, never attach your ego to your job because when your job goes, so does your ego.”