Driving to the state Capitol over the last three weeks has been a déjà vu experience for Jim Frazier -- with one big difference.

The freshman assemblyman from Oakley who cut his teeth in politics before he held any office is headed to Sacramento to represent constituents of his own.

Frazier settled into an armchair at his home recently to discuss the milestone, pausing now and then to rein in Rocky, an enthusiastic black Lab intent on playing.

"I was just a working guy trying to provide for my family," said Frazier, 53, recalling the personal tragedy that led to his first step on this 12-year journey.

His 20-year-old daughter died in a wreck on Highway 50 just east of Pollock Pines in December 2000 when a driver in the oncoming lane lost control on a patch of black ice and veered across the center divider into her car.

The loss prompted Frazier to contact former state Sen. Tom Torlakson for help making the route safer.

Torlakson, then-chair of the Senate's transportation and housing committee, brokered a meeting with the director of Caltrans, and as a result, the agency not only widened that stretch of highway but paved it with a material that prevents ice from sticking.

The senator subsequently invited Frazier to join an advisory group dedicated to reducing the number of accidents on Vasco Road and, when a position on Oakley's planning commission opened up, encouraged him to apply.

As a commissioner, Frazier also began attending city council meetings, and his interest in becoming a part of the action grew as he watched local government operate.

In 2008, he won a seat on the council and, in keeping with his interest in improving public roads, served on five regional transportation boards and agencies during his term.

Frazier also represented Oakley on East Contra Costa Fire District's board of directors, and earlier this year was appointed to the California Delta Protection Commission.

Now Frazier has climbed another rung on the political ladder, and on Monday he will become the first Oakley resident sworn into a state office.

For at least the next two years he will be representing 13 times more people as before -- 466,986 at last count -- spread over three counties.

Frazier admits to having a few butterflies as he checked out the Assembly chamber ("You've got one big floor") and the rest of the Capitol building ("larger than life") while he was there for the training new lawmakers receive.

As Frazier pondered the possibility that there are as many different viewpoints in the Assembly as there are members, he wondered how he'll meet what he expects to be the biggest challenge in accomplishing his goals -- overcoming the gridlock of partisan politics.

"You want to be able to do the best for the people you represent," he said.

One of them is 65-year resident Rico Cinquini, who has seen Oakley evolve from being under the county's control into a city and now hopes that Frazier will raise its profile even more.

"We finally have a voice for Oakley," said Cinquini, who calls Frazier a "can-do" man. "I've been looking for that voice for many years."

Torlakson agrees that even though Democrats now comprise two-thirds of the Legislature, getting a bill passed isn't a slam dunk.

"Not everybody's going to agree with (Frazier's) policies. You have to work hard to get the trust of other members."

State Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, who encouraged Frazier to run for her former seat, thinks her colleague has the perseverance -- and boldness -- it takes to get things done.

"In Sacramento things move at a very slow pace," Bonilla said, noting that changing policies requires the willingness to apply pressure over time. "(Frazier) doesn't understanding quitting."

Nor is he one to shrink when met with resistance, Bonilla added.

"He will speak his mind on behalf of his community," she said. "You have to be able to function within a group of other people who are also being bold and persistent because your voice can be drowned out otherwise."

Frazier can be opinionated and stubborn, "but if you're meek and mild you're not going to be in that position," said Oakley real estate broker Aaron Meadows of his friend.

At the same time, Frazier is receptive to what others have to say, Meadows said.

"He'll listen," he said. "He doesn't always agree with me, but he listens."

Making money work

Frazier's to-do list includes getting taxpayers the biggest bang for their money, in part by making government more efficient. He wants to eliminate the duplication of effort among various agencies as well as ax programs that aren't fulfilling their purpose.

Reducing California's 10.1 percent unemployment rate is another goal: Frazier envisions lobbying for funds to undertake projects that will create jobs. The more disposable income people have, the more buying power they have to reinvigorate the economy, he said.

And his two decades of experience as a general contractor will help him identify construction projects that make the best use of taxpayer dollars, Frazier said.

If there's one promise he's making to constituents, it's that he won't be going about the people's business by half measures.

"If there's an 'ask' from anybody, I'm going to work hard for them," said Frazier, noting that he soon will be trying to help a Brentwood family get a loan modification.

He considers that willingness to go full-bore among his biggest strengths; Frazier demonstrated it during his campaign by talking to some 9,000 people as he walked precincts.

Although he won handily by capturing just over 64 percent of the vote, whether the fallout from a lucrative housing deal that Oakley City Council struck with its city manager last year will continue to dog him in higher office remains to be seen. The decision triggered an outcry among residents who considered the fringe benefit a misuse of public money and denounced the closed-door meetings in which it was negotiated.

Meadows was among those who thought the benefit was too generous, but notes that Frazier has acknowledged the decision was a mistake.

Although he's a Republican, Meadows said the Democrat assemblyman won his vote because of the good he has done for the city and doubts that the incident will hurt him.

"Was Jim elected? Did Jim win? By a lot?" Meadows asked rhetorically. "If it didn't matter in this election, I don't think it'll be an issue in future elections."

Contact Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141. Follow her at Twitter.com/RowenaCoetsee.