But did you know that this East County native has traveled to five continents to play rugby? He attended Lakeside public schools, including Lakeview Elementary School, Lakeside Junior High and El Capitan High School (class of 1974). In high school, he played tennis and was a wrestler, plus he was a member of the school’s first water polo team. The water polo team practiced and played at an Olympic-size swimming located near Gillespie Field. The pool closed several years ago.
But, while attending San Diego State University, Mike began playing rugby, a passion that has continued for decades. After earning a bachelor’s degree in recreation administration, he played rugby as a member of various club teams. He has played in Africa, South America, Australia, Europe and North America. He still occasionally plays with the Old Aztec's "Ancients" rugby team at Ocean Beach’s Dusty Rhodes Park and in various tournaments.
In 1984, after the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers beat the New York Islanders, four games to one, to win the Stanley Cup championship, Mike found himself in a pub in Edmonton with some of his fellow rugby players, and Oilers center Mark Messier, who was showing off the 35-inch-high Stanley Cup trophy. Each member of an NHL championship team is allowed an opportunity to spend time with the trophy during the off-season. “The top of the trophy has a small saucer and somebody poured beer in the saucer and said to me, ‘Quick, take a drink, you’ll never get this chance again.’ I was in the right place at the right time,” said Mike.
In 2001, he found himself in Brazil relaxing in a hammock after a rugby tour. A friendly local monkey jumped on top of Mike, who was lying shirtless in the tropical heat. The monkey spotted Mike’s belly button and tried to bite it before Mike pushed the monkey aside, and leaped out of the hammock. Mike wrote a story on the incident with the monkey, and earned a $2,000 prize in a writing contest sponsored by a travel magazine.
Mike has traveled, lived and worked abroad. He spent 1991 in Europe traveling to a dozen countries in a VW bus with a German girl he later married. They were married for five years. He also spent much of his time that year working in an English pub, skiing in Austria and playing rugby for a local English team.
Since 1993, he has been active with the German American Societies of San Diego. The Societies’ German American Friendship Club is located at 1017 S. Mollison Ave. in El Cajon. As a child, Mike lived within two blocks of the club at a home on Chase Avenue. For the past 19 years, Mike has chaired an annual Oktoberfest festival held at the El Cajon clubhouse. The authentic German festival, drawing about 20,000 visitors over two weekends, features traditional German food, including bratwurst, ox-on-the-spit, potato salad, potato pancakes, sauerkraut, red cabbage and a variety of German pastries, along with a selection of German beers.
Since 1983, Mike has worked in real estate, both as an appraiser and sales agent (his dad also worked an appraiser and his mom also was an agent). For the past two years, Mike has worked with the Keller Williams Realty office operated by Joe Garzanelli. These days, as a single dad, Mike spends a lot of time coaching or supporting his two sons, Aidan age 11, and Nate age 8, in various activities such as soccer, youth baseball, youth rugby and Cub and Boy Scouts.
Mike, 58, is well-known in the Lakeside community. He has served on the Lakeside Chamber of Commerce board since 1999, and served as Chamber president in 2001. Recently, the Chamber hosted “Beans, Beer and Business,” an event featuring vendor booths, networking, food, East County craft beer and chili tasting at the Lakeside Rodeo Grounds. About 500 people attended the event.
He enjoys PSAR in the same way he enjoys the Lakeside Chamber. “Both organizations have a lot of friendly people whom you can get to know,” he said. “And, they’re not so large that you get lost in the crowd. I appreciate the opportunities that are available to make a real difference in my community.”
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When the real estate business got slow, he was a bartender at a popular nightclub on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.