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Amador in Action: Plymouth welcomes a rock ’n’ roll councilman

Keith White extends his service-minded spirit from the Amador County Fairgrounds to the Plymouth City Council.

Photo by Scott Thomas Anderson

Keith White’s debut at Plymouth City Hall was 15 years ago, when he was the drummer in a band whose rehearsals on Empire Street roused a neighborhood revolt against the city’s nighttime sound ordinance. Yet with some friendly words and an extended hand, White diffused the entire situation with warm applause in front of the gathered community and elected officials.

Five albums and a decade and a half later, the hometown kid who has gradually matured into an active father, 4-H leader and diehard community volunteer is going to work on behalf of voters as he takes his seat on the city council he once appeared before.

White says there’s still some rock ’n’ roll in his blood when it comes to shaking things up. He grew up in the Plymouth area, raising farm animals in 4-H from the time he could pull his cowboy boots on. His experiences during high school in Future Farmers of America stirred an interest in getting a degree in agricultural science at Mt. Shasta College in Redding. When he returned to Amador, with his new wife Stacy in tow, he started work as an exterminator, volunteered at the Amador County Fair and expressed himself creatively through the drums.

White spent six years as the steady sticks for the rock group Awara. It was a musical tour of duty that included playing for rowdy, drunken ranchers in Covelo, watching homeless people dance to his beats in a Stockton parking lot and even having a large brick hurled at the band – in mid-performance – by gang members in Oak Park. Not surprisingly, White looked out beyond his drum kit to see the biggest crowds for Awara at the Amador County Fair and Jackson’s Twin River Music Festival.

Awara released two studio albums and drew steady audiences from Citrus Heights to Sutter Creek, but the group eventually parted ways and White moved on to drumming for the rock and hip hop quintet Full Funky Gorilla. It was a new sound with gigs in new places. Three studio albums followed. White spent seven years with FFG, wowing bar crowds from Placerville to Clements. Through it all, White kept a driving energy rattling his snare, cymbals and toms.

White’s tattoos and Metallica T-shirts might not exactly fit in at the market in his hometown, but his passion for agriculture never abated as he worked at the fair year after year. Recently, as his music has slowed down, his volunteerism has increased. With both of his daughters engrossed in 4-H, White is a youth leader for the Willow Springs club, as well as a member of Ag Boosters and is also an assistant with the FFA.

Now 41, White threw his hat into the ring for the Plymouth City Council. The political rookie won on Nov. 8 and is now getting ready to take office. He says his main objective is to help the continuing revitalization of Plymouth, working to make it a fitting gateway to Amador’s wine country in a way that supports more jobs without changing the city’s identity.

"I see Plymouth on the cusp of something great in the near future," White noted. "We’re going to look for educated growth that puts us on a strong footing."

White’s not giving up his day job though; he’s been with Safeguard Pest Control for 17 years and acts as its main inspector. He’s also not entirely done with music, sometimes engaging in studio work or sitting in with recording artists. All the years of performing in front of audiences gave White the comfort and confidence to go door-to-door in Plymouth during the campaign season to meet anyone he didn’t already know. He now hopes that same easy openness allows him to generate conversations across the city while getting an idea of what its residents actually want as Plymouth faces big economic decisions ahead.

"I’m excited to work with the other councilmembers," White said. "We’re going to try to make this place a little better for families, while keeping Plymouth the Plymouth that we know."

That’s not an easy task for any rural city in this day and age, but it doesn’t hurt to tackle the challenge with a little rock ’n’ roll attitude.

Send word on your Amador County event to [email protected].

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