Trisha Pesiri-Dybvik is Senator Kamala Harris’s guest at this year’s State of the Union address. Kamala Harris, who recently announced that she is running for president in 2020, said that America “needs to hear” Pesiri-Dybvik’s story.
Pesiri-Dybvik, a 39-year-old air traffic controller in California, was furloughed and went without a paycheck during the recent government shut down. She is a union member who has been honored for her work as an advocate for her fellow air traffic controllers. In interviews with the media, Pesiri-Dybvik says that she is thankful for what she has but also says that she and her family have been through “a lot” in the past year. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Trisha & Her Husband, Jed, Are Both Air Traffic Controllers Serving Santa Barbara Airport
Trisha and her husband, Jed Dubvik, are both air traffic controllers who work in Goleta at the tower serving Santa Barbara Airport. Jed was considered an “essential” employee and kept working throughout the government shut down. But Trisha was furloughed and went without a paycheck. Pesiri-Dybvik, already an active union member, became a vocal demonstrator against the shut down; she was among the members of the National Air Traffic Controllers’ Union who traveled to Washington DC to drop fliers off at Congressional offices and spoke directly to members of Congress.
Pesiri-Dybvik told reporters that she is proud to be attending the State of the Union this year. “I’m so honored to represent the thousands of wildfire families and to represent air traffic controllers,” she said. “I’m excited and so proud.”
2. She & Her Family Lost Their Home in the Thomas Fire in 2017
In 2017, Trisha and Jed lost their home when the Thomas Fire reached Ventura. The fire struck when both Trisha and Jed were out working; the nanny had to wake up the children and hurry them out of the house. Jed, who got out of work early that day, managed to grab important papers (like the children’s birth certificates) from the house, but otherwise, the family was left with nothing. Even the family’s cats, Zoe and Jack, were lost in the flames.
A family friend set up a GoFundMe page to help the family recover from the great cost of the fire. The friend, Erica Hoover, wrote, “Hello everyone, my name is Erica Hoover and my dear friends, coworkers and NATCA brother and sister, Trisha and Jed Dybvik, just lost their home and beloved kitties to the Thomas fire. They are also dealing with other personal family matters in the midst of this disaster. They are two of the most thoughtful and giving people I have the honor of calling my friends. I work with the both of them and love them dearly.
Please give if you can, they will never ask, but the burden they are facing is unreal right now during this holiday season. Thank you.”
3. Trisha & Her Husband Have Three Children
Trisha’s youngest child, Johnny, is just three years old. They also have a five year old daughter named Brynlie, who is old enough to remember the Thomas Fire and the night that it hit the family’s home. And Dybvik has an older daughter, Mackenzie, who splits her time between her mother’s home and Trisha and Jed’s home. The family also had two cats who were lost to the fire. The family has been living in a rental home in Camarillo, California ever since the fire destroyed their own home.
4. Pesiri-Dybvik Says Her Father Taught Her to be ‘Legislatively Active’ from an Early Age
In 2018, the National Air Traffic Controllers’ Union (NATCA) honored Pesiri-Dybvik for her activism on behalf of the NATCA union. Every year, NATCA awards its most effective activist with the Trish Gilbert Legislative Activism . In accepting her award in 2018, Pesiri-Dybvik said, “I know that no matter what I give back to NATCA, it will never be as much as NATCA gives to me. This committee works so hard. They are passionate and dedicated. I love them with all my heart. They are my family. I am so proud to represent the Western Pacific Region.”
She said that her father had taught her to be an advocate from an early age. Looking back, she said that he had always told her that, if she wanted to solve a problem, she should write to her member of Congress. “That was the running joke in my home. If I wanted to lobby against cleaning my room, or doing my chores, he would say, “Hey, write your member of Congress,’” Pesiri-Dybvik said. “Now, I spend my time in my adult life writing members of Congress.”
5. Pesiri-Dybvik Has Worked As an Air Traffic Controller Since 2007
Pesiri-Dybvik started working for the FAA back in 2007 in Santa Barbara, California. Her salary, at the time, was just over $40,000. In 2017, Pesiri-Dybvik earned just over $107,000. She was furloughed during the government shutdown and says she is still waiting for one of her paychecks. Pesiri-Dybvik’s husband, Jed Dybvik, is also an air traffic controller in Santa Barbara. During the government shutdown he was considered an essential employee and was not furloughed.