Over the next few weeks, each of our three new team members will introduce themselves to you here. This week, meet Miha Tomuta, our Community Engagement Manager, based in Orange County.
My friends and colleagues call me Miha but at home I’m Mihaela, and my grade school friends call me Michelle. Each name reflects a past, present, or current season of my life and changing identify. I was born in Romania in Eastern Europe and immigrated to the States when I was six years old. I don’t remember many details about my life in Europe but I do remember walking to town with my parents to pick up groceries, visit the library, and play at the park. In my hometown, walking was a part of everyday life and our walks are some of my fondest memories. My walking adventures continued in California where I walked to and from school for 12 years. My father was the only driver in our family growing up so we needed to find our own mode of transportation to get around. I walked a lot. My brothers rode their bikes, and occasionally, as I got older, I took the bus.
After high school, I attended UCLA where I focused on European Studies and Geography and took courses in urban geography and environmental design. I lived car-free for 5 years in Los Angeles by using the Big Blue Bus and van shuttles (Google Maps, Uber, and Lyft were still to come). I loved that I could read, finish an assignment, or continue a classroom discussion with a colleague instead of sitting in traffic for hours.
During the summer of my junior year, I studied abroad in Spain and was amazed to find I could visit almost every city by using active transportation. After my trip, I decided to attend graduate school at UC Davis and focus on getting people out of their cars and into their communities. I believe the best way to explore and experience a place is on foot, and this is a theory I have tested countless times during my car-free years in Los Angeles, study abroad program, and countless weekend trips to other cities.
Most recently, I worked with WALKSacramento, a pedestrian advocacy organization in Northern California and a Cal Walks Network Affiliate. My work included reviewing city and county development projects and policies from an active transportation perspective and managing several Safe Routes to School projects. After a 7-year adventure in Sacramento, I have returned to my hometown in Orange County to serve and improve the community where I grew up.
I am excited to join the California Walks team and to continue working to create safe, healthy, fun, and equitable communities in Southern California and throughout the state. I am looking forward to building community support and capacity for active transportation advocacy through resident engagement, education, and empowerment. In my free time you can find me reading in a café or strolling the streets of nearby cities.