Ron's Biography

April 2009


I was born in Portland, Oregon on December 15t, 1939 to parents John and Isolene Kuhnel.  My father was a civil engineer with the U.S. Corps of Engineers and a few months later took an assignment in Hawaii, and we moved to Oahu on base housing located on Hickham Field, the air force base. After a year and a half of somewhat idyllic living this tranquility was shattered on December 7, 1941 by a surprise attack by the Japanese.  While bombs fell all around our house was spared any damage. Five months later the war time restriction got to me too much for my father so in May 1942 he moved his family (a sister was born in April) to Sacramento to take a new assignment with the Corps of Engineers working on the Central Valley Project.

I grew up in Sacramento on 50th street in East Sacramento, attending El Dorado Elementary, Kit Carson Junior High, and Sacramento High School, and Sacramento Junior College, and American River College. In 1960 with three friends we petitioned the City School Board to rename Sacramento Junior College to Sacramento City College. To our surprise this was passed. From this experience came a lifetime of civic activism.

In those days a young man’s worth was to a great degree measured by his participation in sports. So I participated in baseball, football, basketball and in both high school and junior college was on the track team.  But I went far beyond that to become fairly adept at  badminton, tennis, golf, and skiing. I also became very skilled in two more unusual sports -  bowling and ice skating. I was one of the youngest league bowlers at age 12, bowling in the Corps of Engineers league, and founded the first junior bowling team in Northern California, the Alhambra Juniors. I became a good figure skater, learned to play ice hockey and played in the Sacramento Ice Hockey Association.  Finally I learned speed skating, and I founded the Capital Speedsters Speed Skating Club and raced in local competitions and barrel jumping.

In the mid-1960s I took up bicycling, initially to ride 7 miles to work to save money on gas.   Bicycling became a way of life for me for the next 50 years and eventually both my wife Melanie and I began riding in organized long distance rides of centuries and double centuries.   I co-founded the Sacramento Bicycle Commuters Association.

My working career began like many young men with a series of temporary jobs while I was going to college. These included picking hops at the Horst Ranch, working at Campbell Soup Company, driving a forklift at the Golden Cola Bottling Plant, and working as a shill at the Foley and Burke Carnival Company.  Later jobs were with the Federal Government with the Bureau of Public Roads and Bureau of Land Management as a survey aid.  I took a full time job for a year with the Calif. Department of Water Resources as a survey instrument man, and again worked full  time for Vans and Safeway markets while continuing with college,

Is the late 1960s two major events changed my life. I was finally getting near graduation from college in Mathematics and after working again for the Department of Water Resources, and then the Division of Highways Materials and Research Division was selected by Caltrans to be trained as programmer.   I changed my major to Computer Information Systems, got a masters degree, and advanced over the next fifteen years through the ranks of programming, systems analysis, supervision, and upper management.  In the early 1980s I transferred to the Department of Finance as the Deputy State Data Processing Officer, and the late 80’s and early 90s served as the Chief Information Officer for the State. I finished my State career at Chief of Technology with the Department of Insurance.  I concluded my working career as the Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for InsWeb Corporation and as a private technology consultant with Kuhnel and Associates.

From 1974 to 2006 I also worked as a part-time college professor at a variety of Colleges: MTI Business College, California State University, Sacramento, National University, UC Davis, Los Rios College District, University of San Francisco, and the College of the Redwoods teaching a wide variety of subjects in technology and business.

That was then. So what about now?  In 2001-02 I went to college and obtained a Certificate in Historic Preservation and Restoration Technology. From 2002 to 2009 I went to Humboldt State University taking numerous classes in archaeology and sociology and a masters degree in Sociology.  My wife Melanie and I both like to travel and we have both been to all 50 states and 41 countries. I am active in civics affairs and am Chair of the Eureka Planning Commission, on the Transportation Safety Commission, Vice-President of Friends of the Dunes, Board member of the Eureka Concert and Film Center, President of the Ryan Family Historic House and Garden Association, Immediate Past President and current Secretary of the Eureka Heritage Society.  My current hobbies are Garden Railroading, Vegetable Gardening, Bowling, and Beer.  Never a dull moment.