James Heywood moved with his family to Hesperia in 1978 when he was 12 years old. At that time there was not one street light in the town, the Main Street overpass was brand new and Bear Valley Road was a long stretch of nothing from Hesperia Road to the freeway. They lived on Sage Street, just east of the railroad tracks, and on Saturdays, he and his brother would walk down to Owen's market and buy plastic models and model paint.
Heywood attended Hesperia Jr. High and then Victor Valley High school, since Hesperia High School opened the year after he graduated. He left the area in 1986 to serve a mission in North Carolina for his church, then attended college at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah where he majored in Communications. Heywood was interested in the law, and with the support of his wife, completed law school at BYU 1996.
"Life is funny, though, and through a series of events, some fortunate, and others not so, we found ourselves on the Navajo Indian Reservation for a year," Heywood said. "My kids loved the Reservation because if you want a dog, you just have to put some food on the back porch and you'll get one."
Heywood and his family ended up back in Hesperia in 1999. Having been out of law school for three years and a member of the Utah State Bar, he could not practice law in California. So he got what he thought would be a "temporary" job as a high school English teacher at Lucerne Valley High School.
"I found I loved teaching so much that I taught for eight years, the last six of which were at Hesperia Jr. High where I was the Activities Director," Heywood said. "I loved working with kids! It's hard to get old when you are around kids all day."
But the call of the law was still in him, and in 2006 Heywood passed the California Bar and began practice at the Law Offices of James Bruce Minton in Victorville.
Heywood's wife is a teacher at Sultana High School and they have four children. Much of his family lives within a block of each other. Their neighbor, Hesperia Mayor Russ Blewett, sometimes calls their neighborhood "Heywoodville" because there are so many of them there. Heywood said he wouldn't trade it for anything.
Q: What do people not know about your job?
A: I think a good lawyer spends a lot more time solving problems than creating them. You watch TV and movies and you often see a stereotype of lawyers that isn't really positive. You don't often see what good lawyers really do on a day to day basis and that is help people solve their problems. When people come to my office it's usually because something has happened they are not sure how to deal with. Educating my clients about the way the law works and making them a part of the problem-solving process is a big part of my job that I don't think people know about.
Q: What is the best thing about your job?
A: I love helping people. Some people come to me when they are experiencing stressful and difficult situations. I like being able to help them and give them some peace of mind. I also like meeting all kinds of new people in all different stages of their lives. I like helping people write estate plans (wills and trusts) and being an integral part of the important decisions people have to make in their lives. I like feeling like I am giving back to my community. I am often asked to speak to young people about my job, and about succeeding in life in general. I am glad I am in a position to continue to educate kids and adults.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment, professional or personal, to date?
A: Professionally, I'm proud to be a member of two state bars (California and Utah) and for building up a successful practice in the High Desert where I grew up. Personally, I have been married for 21 years to a wonderful woman. It has taken a lot of work but we have a great relationship, and four kids who make us very proud. I am a firm believer that no success can compensate for failure in the home, and so my greatest accomplishment overall would have to be my family.
Q: What is the source of your values?
A: My parents and Jesus Christ. My parents were taught by their parents to love and serve people, and to believe that Jesus Christ is real and that He loves us. I grew up with the idea that honesty, hard work and service to others is what will bring you happiness in life. It is true. I thank my parents for instilling those values in me.
Q: What words of advice do you have for younger generations?
A: Don't waste time. Work hard at whatever you do. Be honest. Be kind.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: Music. I played in bands through high school and college. Now, you'll find me at 4:30 a.m. (that's my free time theses days!) in front of my synthesizers and computer with a pair of headphones on. Technology has made it possible to have a full blown recording studio in a small room with a computer. You can find some of my work if you search YouTube for "Earmonkey," a name my wife made up for a piece I once wrote that she said "sounds like a little monkey dancing in your ear."
Q: Tell us about a special vacation.
A: On our one-year anniversary, Labor Day weekend in 1991, my wife and I took off from Provo, Utah, where we were living, without much of a plan other than to spend a weekend together. We spent a night in Park City, Utah, a beautiful ski resort town nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Utah. The next day we just started driving.
We drove north through the beautiful country of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. We passed farms, tall yellow wild daisies growing by the side of the road, horses, cows, and mountains.
We ended up in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Unfortunately, we hadn't planned ahead and found that Labor Day weekend in Jackson Hole was not a place to be without a reservation. After a couple of hours search driving from hotel to hotel, we came to realize that not one hotel room was available in the whole town. The sun was starting to set behind the Tetons and while it was a beautiful site, we had no place to stay.
We ended up driving for an hour through the now dark Wyoming Forest until we found a room open at the Togwotee Mountain Lodge, tucked up among the tall pines and hills. The only room they had was a huge double, but we took it for fear we'd end up sleeping on the side of the road otherwise.
The next day we drove through Yellowstone. While I remember the scenery, the best thing was being young, and silly enough to embark on a crazy, unplanned and unforgettable adventure with my best friend and wife.
Q: What's your favorite sports team and why?
A: For baseball, it's the Dodgers. As a kid my grandfather would take me to the stadium to watch Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey and company work their magic. Watching Kirk Gibson hit his iconic home run in the 1988 World Series was unexplainably thrilling. I also love watching my BYU Cougars play football and basketball. Jimmer Fredette was amazing last year for the Cougars!
Q: What's your favorite place to eat in Hesperia?
A: I have two: Saturday mornings at Spring House Café. The breakfasts are absolutely fantastic and my kids love the train that circles the restaurant. Friday night is pizza night at the Heywood house, and I always stop and get pizza on my way home from work. Red Baron Pizza has some of the best pepperoni pizza I've ever had!
Q: What's the best thing about living in Hesperia?
A: Despite the population that has quadrupled since we came here in 1978, Hesperia is still a small town. I love seeing friends at the grocery store. I love living on the mesa with the open desert right down the street. I love running along the dirt trails, with junipers and Joshua trees all around me. I love the cool crisp mornings and the summer evenings with a warm breeze and a sky filled with stars.
Q: Describe a special memory you have of Hesperia.
A: I remember in the late 1970s, I Avenue was a roller coaster ride. The road followed the ups and downs of the natural terrain. There were really no businesses on the road, and I doubt there were any stop signs. My grandfather had a huge 1960s Cadillac limousine. We piled the whole family in it, probably 15 of us, and drove as fast as we could (without breaking the speed limit, I'm sure) up and down that road over and over again. Who needed Magic Mountain? I was sad when the road was straightened out.
Q: What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
A: A big fat jelly doughnut from Sunrise Donuts on Main Street. Make that a dozen.