She’s bold, she’s a spitfire, she’s got the sweetest voice on FM radio. Undoubtedly, I’m talking about the unstoppable Feleena Sutton.
Known as one of the Central Valley’s top radio personalities, Feleena is also up on the political scene. A former staffer for State Senator Jim Costa and Assemblymember Sara Reyes, Feleena is the proprietor of Roman Candle Communication, a political communications firm. She’s been a key player behind the scenes of politics for over 20 years. A mom, a home chef, and a dog lover, we give you Feleena.
You are the effervescent female voice of KJWL’s morning show. How did you decide to get into radio?
I ended up in radio by complete happenstance. My degree is in Political Science and I work as the sole proprietor of Roman Candle Communication, so I am truly a political geek who gets involved in policy issues that would put even the best patriot to sleep. Consider getting involved in a good discussion on secondary waste water discharge or PM2.5.
As the story goes, I was trying to schedule a Public Service Announcement on KJWL and had left a phone message for Bruce Campbell begging for a little free time for a client. Bruce returned my message asking me to come in and tape the PSA. I said the client would do it. He must have asked in three or four different ways to try to get me to come in. After a few minutes of volleying back and forth over my presence at the PSA, Bruce admitted that he really liked my voice and wanted to interview me to be an on-air person at KJWL. I chuckled to myself and said I would think about it knowing that I would never do it.
That night over dinner I tell my husband and daughter about this crazy guy at KJWL named Bruce who wants me to audition to be on the radio. My husband says, “Why not give it a go and see what happens?” He slowly convinces me to try it out. So I auditioned; they liked me, and I started working the morning show.
Where do you find inspiration?
I am really struggling to answer this question just because I find inspiration in so many places. I am inspired by my daughter each time she learns something new. I am inspired by her teachers at Baird Middle School when I see how hard they work and how much they really care. I am inspired by my husband who goes to work sick because his co-workers are depending on him. I am inspired by my mother because she fought and beat breast cancer. I am inspired by my brother-in- law the public school teacher and sister-in-law the nurse who are raising three boys, one of whom is autistic. I am inspired by my good friend Tami because she is staying home to raise her baby. I am inspired by my co-host Bruce Campbell because he never misses water polo games or Donuts with Dad at his daughters’ school. I am inspired by Gail Marshall because she never says a cross word about anyone, even when she could.
Lastly, I am inspired by my dog Maggie, the German Shepherd, a rescue dog. She is so loving and forgiving. I hope to someday be the person she thinks I am. I guess I am just really blessed to have so many great people (fury and otherwise) around me.
You clearly have moxie. Where does that come from?
I think my moxie comes from my mother. She is a mama bear you don’t want to mess around with!
I was always the smallest student in my class. Yep, small and quiet, not the Feleena you know today. I was teased for my size and shyness. I was shy in part because I stuttered when I was nervous.
When I would bend over to tie my shoe on the playground other students would run and jump over me as if I were a hurdle in a track meet, and that just infuriated me. I wanted to cry, but didn’t want them to see me cry. I would have tears in my eyes when mom picked me up from school, so mom was left to pick up the pieces. She would take me in her lap and explain that “dynamite comes in small packages.” I don’t know how or why the message finally stuck, but from that point on I took on every obstacle knowing I am “dyn-o-mite.” (To say this properly you have to talk like Jimmie J.J. Walker on Good Times or it will sound pretty lame.)
I went on to name my public affairs company Roman Candle Communication because I am useful in explosive situations and because dynamite comes in small packages. I am still small. I check in at 4’ 10 and 1/2”, but am no longer shy or quiet. And yes, the half inch does matter.
What’s the best part of your day?
Without question, the best part of my day is when my husband walks through the door because now our family is together. This means I have completed all assigned tasks, I have no where to be, and we all just get to hang out, eat dinner and talk about our day. Cell phones are ignored and so is the doorbell. It’s just glorious.
You’re also quite the accomplished home chef. How did you develop your interest in cooking?
When I left home to go to college in Sacramento I didn’t know how to cook. I was such a big baby. When I got married, I made an attempt at cooking. Back then I was a Betty Crocker cook. Just throw a can of soup on it and cook it. Convenience was more of a concern than nutrition.
Things were tight financially so I began cutting coupons and planning meals a week at a time. That’s when Martha Stewart was in her heyday, before going to prison. I subscribed to her magazine thinking I could make my food look cute like hers. It never came out the way it looked in her magazine. Then Giada de Laurentiis came along. I could actually follow her recipes! I found my niche. Her recipes are very tasty, so I started investigating other things on line. One recipe lead to another, and another.
And then I found out I was pregnant with Emily Grace in 1999. I suddenly became acutely aware of the food I put into my body. Nutrition was now more importation than convenience. This started my “cook everything from scratch phase” that really has never gone away. My dear mother calls me the Food Nazi because there are certain things I do not allow into my house.
Now it’s a bit of game to see how much Greek yogurt, kale, spinach, quinoa and whole grains I can put into our diet at home. Of course “there is always room for dark chocolate,” says the Food Nazi.
How do you unwind from a tough day at work?
I start with a hot shower to wash away the dirt from the day and slip into my favorite pajamas. My dear husband joins me for our 8 p.m. cocktail in our bedroom where we snuggle in to watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Emily Grace comes along soon after and snuggles in-between us. Both the dog and cat are on the bed too, expecting a belly rub. Everyone feels cozy and loved.
Which would you rather have right now: Chocolate or a cocktail?
I say let’s split the difference and have a chocolate cocktail. Smirnoff makes lovely chocolate vodka. Cost Plus sells a chocolate lovers wine. I do not suggest mixing the two. For the truly desperate, stick some chocolate chips in your vodka. It’s vodka, so what do you have to lose? (Please drink responsibly.)