Beyond the Boardroom
October, 2006 Issue
In 1985, Gary Lieberstein joined the Napa County District Attorney’s office as a deputy DA. In 1998, he was elected to the top spot, where he’s been ever since (re-elected in both 2002 and earlier this year). But there’s so much more to his story…
Born in Los Angeles and raised in Tarzana, Calif., Lieberstein eventually attended UCLA and then Hastings College of Law. While in law school, the future litigator worked as a blackjack dealer in Lake Tahoe (oddly enough, alongside Napa County’s newest judge, Rod Stone). “It actually provided great insight into my current work,” he says. “I was in public relations, I was under observation at all times and I did everything by the book.”
An avid cyclist (Mt. Veeder calls his name every weekend) and sportsman, Gary Lieberstein lives a good life—and he knows it: “I was raised by parents who always told me I could achieve anything. I’m blessed with my wonderful wife Patti of almost 20 years and two children, Adam (24) and Rachel (17). My professional life couldn’t be more fulfilling or rewarding, and I’m so appreciative of the trust I’ve received from our community. Life is good, and I’m happy.”
How are you like your mom? Your dad?
Both my parents are/were very outgoing and talkative, so I’ve inherited this quality from both. I’ve probably been most influenced by my father and his philosophy. From my earliest memories, he always instilled in me a love of life and the goal to leave the world a little better place than when I arrived. My father was a very passionate, emotional man, and I feel I have many of his qualities. He also instilled a love of the outdoors and the desire to travel: qualities which I have embraced.
How many bones have you broken?
The only bones I’ve broken or sprained have been, fortunately, fingers. These injuries are primarily due to my ongoing passion for basketball.
What is your vice food and what do you like about it?
Cheddar cheese potato chips. I love the flavor, but unfortunately, they don’t love me.
Do you have a bad habit you’d like to break?
I have one or two bad habits I’d love to break. However, like most bad habits, no one wants to admit them or talk about them.
What section of the newspaper do you turn to first?
I usually turn to local news. I’m also a daily reader of the comics—although I get there after news and sports.
Are you a good patient?
I think I’m a pretty good patient, provided I have someone to look after me. If not, I’m miserable and pathetic.
What’s the most important value you’d like to impart to your children?
The same philosophy I had passed on to me by my father. That is, life is precious. Embrace it and enjoy it. Whatever you choose to do, find a way to leave the world a better place than when you came to it.
What’s something people would be surprised to know about you?
People might be surprised to know I was a triathlete back in 1999 and 2000. I participated in the Donner Lake Triathlon, which consists of a 1.2-mile swim, 22-mile bike ride and a 6.2-mile run. I finished in the middle of my age group and overall. During the same year, I also ran San Francisco’s 12K Bay to Breakers and have a certificate indicating my finish of 555 out of 55,000.
Who has been the most influential person in your life, besides your parents, and what important lesson did you learn from them?
Currently, the most amazing person in my life is my daughter Rachel. She has energy and commitment in her life and has had such an impact on so many people so early in her own life. I really look forward to seeing where she chooses to make her impact in the world.
Ever fantasize about chucking it all and doing something else? What would that something else be?
I could chuck it all and be a movie actor, but then I’d probably end up being governor so I’d pretty much be back in nearly the same place. I do, someday, see myself perhaps in public relations for the wine industry—talking the Napa Valley up in places like Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Italy and maybe a few undiscovered spots. I’m not sure how much of a fantasy this is, though, because I know people who currently do this. Then again, they fantasize about doing other things like, perhaps, being a movie actor.
What’s one thing you know for sure?
One thing I know for sure is that all of us will live, grow old (hopefully) and eventually die. During that process, I know that how we live our life and how we let the daily pressures of our life affect us is totally up to us. I choose to embrace life and to live it as fully as I can while I’m here.
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