Last month we published an article in which we sat down with Mayor Matt Sparks and got to know the public side of his persona. In this, the second half of our interview with Mayor Sparks, we asked some in-depth questions in order to get to know the personal side of the man that is our Mayor.
Q: Where did you grow up? What was your family life like?
“I grew up in the small town of Boulder Creek in Santa Cruz County, California. My parents moved us on a hilltop because they decided we were going to build a family home, and that took about 6 years from start to finish because we cleared the land and it was at my dad’s pace because he worked. I was 12 learning to solder copper pipes, and put on tar paper, roofing shingles, consistently be the go-for because I was the middle child and my sister was too young. I think that is probably where my mad commissioner skills come from, from being the go-for for 6 years (chuckles).”
Q: What about coming out? What was that like for you?
I did it at a young age, I was 17. To be totally honest, it was a Monday and I decided not to go to school and I got a hold of a couple gallons of wine and stayed drunk for five days and I told my mom that she could either have an alcoholic gay son or she could just accept me for being gay. At first it wasn’t the greatest, my mom felt that it fell on her, but things quickly turned around with my mother and we used to speak at high schools.
We joined a group called triangle speakers. We had one gay male, one lesbian and then a parent, and we may have had a bisexual person. We had a panel it was gay and lesbian and a parent of, and if they could get a mother and and son together, they had all sorts of crazy questions for us.
At first I was like, I am just going to take a gamble… I saw movie once where somebody said something about editing your life and I just thought I should not have to edit my life for people, they should just take me for face value and for what I do, what I say I keep my word, what kind of a person I am, that’s it.
My experience was a little rough at first and it got better, ultimately, it took a little time, not like most but that is why I have a huge soft spot for people who… you see, these people that get thrown out. Scott and I have probably discussed if we ever did, we would take in a teenager who was thrown out of their house. I don’t think I would want to adopt a child and raise one. I think, my calling is if there was ever an opportunity to foster a child that was a runaway, it sort of makes me think if my dad had been extreme, it probably would have been a potential scenario, because I will be honest, I remember putting a gun to my head. That was really young, I was only about 13, then I realized it was stupid. Don’t try and pull your trigger with your toe, because I almost broke my toe (chuckles). My parents put this thing forward about being honest, always be honest, and then I decided to ultimately test the honesty it felt like be honest about everything we are comfortable with, and so I kind of felt like I was let down just a tad, but that is a lot for any parent to take in, I mean I don’t know what I would do if my son came to me and said he was straight (laughs). Just kidding! See, my mother looks at it that way, (she reasons) ‘I don’t walk around making excuses for my straight children, so what do you want from me?'”
Q: Have you faced challenges in public and private life for being gay? And how have you handled those challenges?
“Usually with a sense of humor or some quick wit. When I decided to come out, I decided that that was my life and those were my terms, and if anybody didn’t like it, well it is just like watching TV, change the channel, look at someone else. I don’t have time to deal with people who are not comfortable with me, it would be my opinion that someone who doesn’t like gay people, doesn’t know someone who is gay.”
Q: How did you end up in Oakland Park?
“I moved out here for work, I got relocated to Miami with American Airlines. I lived in Pembroke Pines, from there I realized that was too far west for me, and then I owned a couple homes in Fort Lauderdale, then Wilton Manors, and I realized Wilton Manors may have activity but once we settled in to Oakland Park people were so kind. One of the first people I met was (former Mayor) Carol Stevens. I like to go occasionally (to Wilton Manors), I don’t mind nightlife, I just don’t want to live in nightlife, I just like that community based, sort of quiet at night, everybody has a couple of chairs on their front porch, it just seems more welcoming.”
Q: How do you reconcile being a flight attendant with being the Mayor?
“I do a few less hours that I used to, usually I fly between 70-90 hours, which correlates to 180 hours of my time, so I try to fly 50 to 70 hours now. It is just prioritizing! I am only into my first month, so it is like where am I most needed, I have enough seniority that I can manipulate my schedule, that is the most flexible job in the world being a flight attendant. Being a Mayor there is not a lot of flexibility when it comes to somebody wanting you to be in a certain town, on a certain date, at a certain time I can always make it happen as long as I get some leeway, and I if I don’t have enough lead time I will simply just get rid of my flying and pick it up somewhere else.”
Q: What is the craziest, funniest, scariest thing you’ve experienced as a flight attendant?
“There are so many insane things that happen. I think the craziest one was, and I felt really bad… This kid, you could tell he was military because they always have to have their manila envelope with them with their papers, and I think he just had too many drinks, maybe it was out of fear, I don’t know but he decided to go to the back of the aircraft, remove his clothing except for his underwear and walk casually up and down the cabin with a cigar, and so it was like you are the guy, you go talk to him. So I sort of dealt with it in the oddest way possible, I said ‘You know people are really concerned that you have a cigar, if I could get you to get rid of the cigar and maybe put some clothes back on’, I didn’t make it about the clothes, I made it about the cigar.
The worst day was 911. I was in the air, and I was #1, I was in charge of the cabin, I think that was the worst day of my career, I think that is where everyone lost their sense of safety that you thought this job was sort of like that safe environment or that your company was there to back you up. I could not reach my company for 7 days, but you handle it the best you can.”
Q: Besides, Oakland Park, which place have you been to that you like the most?
“I would say if I wasn’t living in Oakland Park and would live somewhere else, I think I would be living probably in Ireland, Dublin. The people are really nice, they are very friendly, their administration is much different, even the UK is much more forward thinking, I have been all over Scotland, all over Ireland, although it would be colder than I am used it, I would be willing to adapt to the conditions, and I could still commute here and work. But I am getting long in the tooth to be making any serious life changes at this point. ”
Q: What about bucket list places?
“Absolutely Prague is on my bucket list, because they didn’t get leveled during the war, I love architecture, and another place that I just want to go and have fun is Germany. Those are the places I haven’t been to, I would love to check out Thailand, I do know where you are getting these places like Zanzibar, that is going to be interesting.”
Q: What is on your bucket list generally?
“I want to take a trip on a motorcycle, probably across the Southern US, I have already driven across the United States. I do have a convertible Mustang and I want to drive it from San Francisco, all the way down the coastline and then across back to Miami.”
Q: How did you and your husband meet?
“We were supposed to go to the beach and that was on a Saturday. It was Friday night and I didn’t have anything to do and we were talking and I realized we only lived three buildings away from one another, so I called him up and asked him ‘What are you doing?’ and he said ‘Nothing!’, but it wasn’t true. He was supposed to meet his best friend out for cocktails but he stood him up to go out with me. So I took him to Dapur (Asian Tapas) and that was it, the next day I went to the beach, I still had a good time, and then after a couple of years when our leases were up we decided to move in together. We have been married since 2016″.
Q: What are your hobbies?
Q: What are your passions?
“Current fashion design”.
Q: What is your favorite movie?
Q: Favorite TV show?
Q: Currently into any TV show?
Q: Dogs or Cats?
“Dogs. I have two morkies, rescues”.
Q: Last book you read?
“I like really dry reading, I think it was another book about Mary Queen of Scots, not fiction, but really dry history. But favorite book Designs by James Brady, I know it sounds like a really cooky thing but that’s were my fashion side comes out, it was so dead on to what the fashion world is like, people think it is like Project Runway but it’s not, it is really mean and that is why I loved it. ”
Q: Advice I would give a young person about life?
“No matter how bad it gets, it gets better.”
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About the Author
Désirée Ávila has called Oakland Park her home for over 31 years. In addition to publishing LivingInOaklandPark.com , Désirée publishes three other blogs and has been featured in print publications, locally and abroad. Désirée was an award winning teacher for 10 years and has a doctoral level education in Educational Technology. She is currently a licensed Florida Realtor® and is committed to a high-level of professionalism and to helping others with their real estate endeavors through education. Désirée is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian.