Dan Flynn, From Capitol Building to Capital Building


By Caroline J. Beck
September 01, 2010

For some twenty years, Dan Flynn worked as a legislative aide to high-profile senators and assemblywoman Patricia Wiggins where his job focused on managing the ins and outs of Sacramento politics. Since 2008, as Executive Director of the UC Davis Olive Center, Flynn’s focus has been on supporting the state’s olive oil industry by undertaking important research studies, offering educational programs and outreach services to an increasing number of California businesses dedicated to making world-class olive oil and growing at an impressive rate.

In a relatively short timeframe and under Flynn’s guidance, the Olive Center has advanced many important issues, helping to champion newly-enacted federal and state laws, fielding research and raising public awareness. Flynn credits it to a great deal of cooperation and support within the industry and sees every year yielding exponentially greater results.

Why did you first get involved in the olive oil industry?

Six years ago, I connected with Sal Genito, director of grounds at UC Davis, because I heard that he had a landscape hazard where olives were falling on the bike path, leading to accidents and lawsuits. He wanted to harvest the trees and make olive oil. I wrote a feasibility report, then Sal appointed me to manage the UC Davis Olive Oil program. The UC Davis Olive Center evolved from there.

What do you think is the industry’s biggest challenge?

Educating consumers, buyers, and chefs.

What do you most enjoy about the business?

The people.

What are you working on now?

Legislation to fund olive tree research, a research agenda for 2011, and a master milling short course.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?

The Bay Area.

What quality do you most admire in a person?

Integrity.

What is your favorite food and olive oil pairing?

Grilled bread rubbed with garlic and doused with olive oil.

What is your favorite place on earth?

My seat at the kitchen table.

What is your most satisfying achievement?

Besides two impressive teenage sons, I’d have to say the UC Davis Olive Center.

What was your most memorable meal?

In 2008, the Olive Center sponsored a lunch with Slow Food Yolo at the university’s Wolfskill orchard in Winters, California. We had 150 people sitting at one long table, under 150-year-old Mission trees. Grilled lamb, roasted vegetables, wine, beer -- all local. Darrell Corti provided a blessing of the oil, and many of the key supporters of the Olive Center were there from the industry and university. There was a generous spirit in the air.

What’s next on your horizon?

Launching fee-based sensory evaluation and chemical-testing services for the industry, as well as producing a “President’s Blend” olive oil that will be available at all UC campuses.