InterView – Stephanie Burnside

InterView Stephanie Burnside By Chris Murphy

As Modesto looks toward the future, Modesto is also looking for clues from our past. Cities evolve and change and over the last few years, Modesto as learned much about where to go by looking at our past. What is our authenticity as we plan for the future. What have our civic leaders learned about what makes us great as we decided where we want to go? There have been some great generations of visionary business people and elected officials in Modesto and now there is a new generation, poised to play a key role on where we go as a city and as a community.

Stephanie and Brent Burnside represent both our old and new generation. With a local business with a rich history that began as the part of the old Lincoln Mercury Dealership back in the 30s, Burnside Body Shop today celebrates the classic car history of Modesto’s American Graffiti past and has invested to be high tech for evolving auto industry. This new generation looks to the future as they get involved in our community, donate time and money and help make a difference where we go in the future.

Let’s meet Modesto City Council Person and CFO of Burnside Body Shop, Stephanie Burnside.

ModestoView: It seems like we have a new wave of business people stepping up to get involved in Modesto, what do you think is driving this? Stephanie Burnside: I love seeing this new wave of business leaders stepping up to be champions of this great community. I think so many of us are genuinely interested in playing a critical role in the direction that our city is headed. It’s easy to sit back and criticize…it takes guts to roll up your sleeves to find solutions. We need this new wave of leadership to ensure the policies and regulations we implement are relevant.

MV: As a young professional and member of CVPE, what is something that people that live outside of Modesto don’t understand about our community?
SB: It’s easy for outsiders to jump on the bandwagon of how ‘terrible’ Modesto is, but I think that they’re missing the core of what makes this community great. The people! Yes, we have our challenges and some would prefer to focus on those. There are far more incredible highlights we have to offer. Collectively we are making progress showcasing those strengths. This is where I see our new wave of business leaders playing such an important role.

MV: You are a business owner and an active parent, what made you want to dive in to civic service as a city council person?
SB: As a business owner it has always been important to give back to a community. This is our home! As a parent I want my kids to learn how to give back and appreciate what we’ve worked so hard to accomplish. So emulating volunteerism and community involvement has just been a natural progression of growing up in our household. The opportunity presented itself when Kristin Olsen was elected to State Assembly and her council seat was vacated. With my involvement in community events and my business sense it lent well to the hole that needed to be filled on the council. The past two and a half years have been incredibly rewarding. I love serving this great city!

MV: How did you and Brent meet?
SB: Brent and I met at the Riverbank Wine and Cheese Festival through mutual friends.

MV: As someone that grew up in Merced, what were your impressions of Modesto when you were growing up?
SB: Merced is or was considerably smaller than Modesto so this was the place to be! There was always great shopping, golfing, fun festivals & activities going on.

MV: If Modesto had a “cool” business, the body shops or the classic car shop has got to be one of the most authentic, with a long history dating back to Gene Winfield and the classic cars of American Graffiti. What role does our Classic American Graffiti heritage play in the future of Modesto?
SB: It is a pretty cool business! These technicians are magicians when it comes to capturing the essence of the American Graffiti. It’s an art! As I said earlier there are a lot of incredible high lights Modesto has to offer and capitalizing on these is key to diversifying our economy. American Graffiti is wonderful piece of our history and should remain part of our future. One of my favorite events is the North Modesto Kiwanis Graffiti parade and car show. It brings people together from all walks of life and allows us all an opportunity to peek inside that era. That nostalgia should be preserved and cherished.

MV: As a City Council person, what is the biggest issue you wish that the community at large could solve.
SB: I would really l like to see a compromise with regards to farmland preservation. Modesto is a dense community…ranked most dense in Stanislaus County and one of the highest in the State. I am confident most would agree that agriculture is our leading economic driver it’s just the manner in which we preserve those lands that is controversial.

MV: How would you best like the people of Modesto to get involved to make Modesto better?
SB: There are so many ways to get involved. Volunteer, serve on a citizen advisory committee, coordinate a neighborhood association, mentor a student…the list is huge! When it comes to being involved it doesn’t have to be in large quantities. Some feel guilty for not being able to dedicate a ton of time, but to me it’s not about the quantity, it’s the quality. Pick something that you are passionate about and find a service organization or non-profit that has similar philosophies. Start with one event or a couple hours. The great thing about giving back is more often than not you (the one volunteering) are the one walking away having gained more.

MV: Wave your magic wand, what would you change about Modesto if you had all of the resources and authority to do it.
SB: That’s a tough one…probably the gang culture that is prevalent in our area. Eliminate the violence, the drugs, the ignorance and fear that is associated with that.

MV: What has been one of your most memorable Modesto experiences so far?
SB: I think thus far it would be serving Modesto in this leadership role. It’s challenging and rewarding. My first swearing in at the dais was definitely memorable!

MV: You have a really great group of friends, what makes your relationships so special?
SB: Thanks…I really do have an incredible group of friends! I am so thankful for these relationships and my incredible family. There is no way I could do what I do without that love and support. It’s important to me to surround myself with those that embrace life and keep me grounded. And it’s a diverse group of people which makes it even more special because it’s not just a lot of people.

MV: What legacy do you wish to leave after you have completed your terms as city council?
SB: I’d want to be remembered as the councilwoman that brought sides together to accomplish great things for our community. There are some areas where sides are too divisive to make any progress and digging heels in isn’t in the best interest of the community. Ag preservation, economic development, city/county collaborations. With these challenges come great opportunities…we just need to keep our minds open

MV: Describe your perfect Modesto day.
SB: A perfect Modesto day…every day is perfect if I have the opportunity to cuddle with my girls, laugh with my family and friends, and check a few items off the ‘to do’ list. I love spending time with those I love and our backyard is the perfect setting for that.

MV: Last question: Beatles or Stones We received our very first photo response to this question.

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