The life of Elk Grove resident Robert Lawrence “Bob” Trigg was celebrated by his friends and family at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Elk Grove on June 30.
Trigg, who died at the age of 87 on May 23, had a long career in the education system, including working as a superintendent of the Elk Grove Unified School District (EGUSD) from 1983 to 1995. He was also appointed to a vacant seat on City Hall. Elk Grove in 2013 and served until the 2014 election.
David Gordon, who succeeded Trigg as EGUSD superintendent and played that role until 1995, told event attendees that Trigg was like a second father to him.
“Bob was someone I admired a lot and could always count on to be totally honest,” he said. “(He was not) just a good administrator or a good leader, but a good person.
“Bob put the bars on what we call a public servant or community leader.”
Gordon, who began working with Trigg in 1991, recalled Trigg’s ability to excel in the challenges he faced in running a district that was experiencing tremendous growth in student enrollment.
“Bob was in it,” he said. “He formed an extraordinary team. Bob brought everyone together and his team always did the job.
“I remember asking Bob, ‘Bob, how the hell are we going to build 37 new schools?’ And he smiled and replied, ‘One at a time.’ “
Gordon, who currently serves as superintendent of the Sacramento Office of Education, also praised Trigg for his integrity, kindness, loyalty, respect for others, high expectations, and his passion for helping young people in the community.
“His personal touch helped him become the great leader he was,” he said.
Another speaker, Richard Eddy, a former senior pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, called Trigg a “force within the state education system.”
Eddy mentioned that beyond his work in the education system, he was elected to the church council in 2010 and 2011, and was previously president of the congregation.
Eric Ishimaru, the main pastor of this church, described Trigg as an extremely positive man, a fantastic sense of humor, and a person who treated others with respect.
“By the grace of God, Robert was a good man who will be missed in this life by his family, friends and colleagues,” he said.
Ishimaru also shared a story related to Trigg’s U.S. Army service, which included serving as a commanding officer in Fort Hood, Texas.
“The most famous soldier under Bob’s command was Elvis Presley,” he said. “Yes, Bob was the commander of Elvis Presley. And I asked him on one occasion, I said, ‘Well, was he a good soldier?’ And Bob said, “Oh, yes, it was. He had no trouble with Elvis. He had some trouble with young women who were trying to break down the fence. But Elvis was a good soldier.”
In an interview with Citizen, Kay Albiani, former chair of the Elk Grove Unified School District Board, recalled that she was drawn to Trigg’s skills many years ago.
“We talked and I asked him if he would be interested in going out this way (to Elk Grove),” he said. “You know, he was happy where he was (with the Davis Unified School District). But eventually, we made a deal and he came to Elk Grove and the board hired him. (However) he had to go through the whole process like everyone else.”
Albiani mentioned that he appreciated how Trigg was a person willing to “try something new.”
“When schools faced a huge construction crisis, with Mello-Roos we passed that big legislation,” he said. “Back then there was not even a way to build schools, because of Proposition 13. So the staff made the legislation for the Mello-Roos.
“We were able to do it and work it out and it happened, and it changed history for the whole state of California. It all started here in Elk Grove.”
Helen Thomson, former president of the Davis School Board, recalled how Trigg came to Davis in 1979.
“We were looking for a new superintendent and I came across a lawyer who was on the San Juan (Unified School District) board who said he was withdrawing the entire board and the district was in chaos,” he said. “And I was worried about the administrators, what would happen to them. And he said, “We have a very good one.”
“He said Bob Trigg’s name and I said, ‘Ah-ha, I’m going to investigate this.'”
Eventually, Trigg was hired to take over Davis District, which Thomson observed was experiencing its own chaos.
“We had dissatisfaction with administrators, teachers, parents, community, etc. and he was able to deal with all of that very calmly and bring people together in working groups,” he said. “He had a wonderful way with him. He was a good problem solver.”
Bill Wittich, a resident of Elk Grove since 2003, told the Citizen that he met Trigg while on an advisory committee in Elk Grove during Steven Ladd’s superintendence.
“I thought Bob was a warm person, that I didn’t care what you were talking about, he was able to express his feelings exactly,” he said.
Wittich added that he and Trigg enjoyed exchanging friendly jokes about their college sports teams.
“The real connection with Bob Trigg and me is that he’s a duck (from the University of) Oregon and I’m a Trojan (from the University of Southern California),” he said. “So throughout the football season, I had it in our house (for those school games).”
Raymond Trigg also shared some memories about his father.
“If I described him, I would say he was an eternal optimist,” he said. “He was a very, very positive man. I think he got it from his friends (Lonnie and Rosie Trigg).
“I think they taught him to always be grateful for getting up every day, the first breath we have to remember in the morning, the clothes to put on our backs and the food we have, and then all these wonderful opportunities here in America.”
Raymond, who lives in Encinitas with his wife, Diane, and his daughter, Sarah Rose, also praised his father for his authentic approach to working with others.
“He loved people, he loved working with others, he loved supporting people,” he said. “He really liked people.”
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