Where Are They Now? Past Staff Edition: Sean Wilkenfeld

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By Jason Bove.

True story: A job is far more enjoyable if you like to spend time with your coworkers. I have been lucky enough to say that I have and still do. Not too many careers give you the opportunity to spend days, weeks, months, and even years with good friends talking about something that you love to do. That being said, when a staff member leaves, you tend to miss seeing your friend. You answer questions from customers about where they went for months after, and the transition to the next phase of work begins.

Seven years ago, Sean Wilkenfeld left Sacramento Pipeworks to switch from patrolling climbing walls to protecting the public on patrol. We are so good at recycling at the gym that I still find paperwork with the initials SW on them. Most people don’t know where he went, and I thought this would be a great way to let them know. On the last day he worked at Pipeworks, we both wore suits to work and worked our whole shift in them. Yes, we even climbed routes in them!

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You worked for Touchstone at both Diablo Rock Gym and Sacramento Pipeworks. How long exactly did you work for Touchstone, and how long have you been gone?

I worked for the Touchstone family of gyms for about eight years, starting my sophomore year in high school and all the way through college. I’ve been gone now for about seven years.

After leaving to pursue a career in law enforcement for the State of California, how do you feel that your previous experiences in rock climbing/fitness centers prepared you for the work you do now?

I vividly remember taking almost every workout class at Pipeworks before I entered the academy. This prepared me for the Physical Training (PT) sessions, and paid off big time! My rope skills also often come in handy at work. I am probably one of the only CHP officers that has some 1-inch webbing in their patrol car (you never know when you may need it!).

What is your current position for the State, and what do you enjoy most about your job?

I am currently a CHP officer assigned to the Oakland CHP office. Right now I am the Public Information Officer, which is a specialized position and a fancy way of saying “media liaison.” What I love most about my job is that no two days are ever the same. I can go from writing tickets and making arrests, to training new officers, to doing a live interview with one of our local news stations. So, keep an eye out, because you never know where you may see me!

On the other side of the last question, what do you miss most about working your desk staff positions?

That’s easy: the people and the atmosphere. Climbing gyms are not really gyms, they’re hangouts. Nobody is angry or upset when they come to the gym, and what kind of gym has couches? The gyms were an awesome place to grow up (remember, I spent almost my entire high school and college life working at the gyms), and I made some lasting friendships that still go on to this day.

Do you have any funny or crazy gym tales that you are willing to share?

Well, my old coworkers may know two or three, but we should keep those between us. 😉

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Are there any other odd/entertaining/heroic situations or stories that have happened at your new job?

I’ve been in many tough situations, none of which I would consider myself a hero for. I asked to be put in this job; a hero never asks to be put in a tough situation. However, the list of odd and entertaining situations is a long one. Here is one that always sticks out in my mind:

I was working on I-80 right near Berkeley Ironworks, when I tried to stop an old Camaro for a carpool violation. The driver didn’t stop, so I pursued him for a few miles before we ended up back on I-80 near Gilman Street, and another officer joined in on the pursuit. Finally, the driver got caught in traffic and stopped to give up. He got out of his car in the middle lane of the freeway, with all lanes blocked, and news helicopters circling overhead. We pulled out our guns and start giving orders, but he only put one hand up and with the other, he desperately tried to finish his marijuana cigarette! He soon dropped the joint, and admitted to me later that he simply wanted to make sure it didn’t go to waste!

How do you feel that climbing helps people with decision-making, understanding right from wrong, and fundamental motor skills?

Climbing is more of a lifestyle than a sport. From taking care of your gear like your life depends on it (because it does) to making sure you leave no trace at the crag, the basics of making good decisions and understanding right from wrong are all there. As for fundamental motor skills, I’m sure my time climbing helped immensely with the obstacle course in the academy!

What assortment of activities fill up your free time nowadays, and the burning question—do you still climb?

In the winter, my life revolves around how often I can get up to Tahoe to ski. In the summer, it’s mostly running and mountain biking. I also finally have my own dog to go hiking and backpacking with! Unfortunately, I do have to admit that I haven’t had a real climbing session in a long time.

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If you were chosen to give the commencement address at a graduation ceremony, how would you choose to uniquely express yourself and your life?

Anyone who knows me knows better than to ever ask me to give a commencement address! However, if I did give one, I would express myself with large amounts of sarcasm and a love for all things outdoors (and dogs)!

During the speech, what advice would you give the graduates to take into the world today?

Don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t be afraid to try something new, and always do the right thing, even when nobody is watching. And keep it short…nobody likes long speeches!