Tonkin honored for improving TV in Auburn

Volunteer passionate about helping citizens express their freedom of speech
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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You may not think so, but there’s more to the software engineer who brought a better cable provider to Auburn residents than just wires and computers. Glenn Tonkin is this year’s Auburn City Volunteer of the Year for, among other tasks, bringing a better cable provider to the city and putting Auburn’s public access television station in the limelight. “He’s the kind of person anyone could want to know,” said Auburn City Manager Bob Richardson. “He’s hard working, diligent, honest and he just really cares for Auburn.” Tonkin is someone you would want to know. He owned one of the first licenses for Atari, one of the first computer entertainment game companies, still plays the handful of guitars he has at home, was married on a cliff and is a software engineer for a large company despite the fact that he is a high school dropout. “I’m a self-taught kind of guy,” Tonkin said. After Tonkin dropped out of high school, he continued his education at the library and at various jobs. He said he learned how to be manager while working at a fast-food restaurant. His interest in technology sparked when he took a job as an auto mechanic. Today, he works full time as a software engineer for Northrop Grumman, a global security company. Since 2003, Tonkin has put his technology skills to use to help the city of Auburn. The nine-year Auburn resident is the chairman of the Auburn Telecommunications Commission and the president of the Auburn Community Television board of directors. Under his role as commission chairman, Tonkin oversaw the sale of the city’s cable franchise from Starstream to Wave. The sale resulted in an upgrade in provider and technology and kept fees low at the same time. Tonkin has also increased visibility of the public access channels — channels 19 and 20 — available to the city. He connects with businesses and clubs and encourages them go on air and talk about just about anything. Tonkin spoke passionately when he said he wants more people to become “empowered” by using the channel to exercise their right of freedom of speech. He said there is a studio and equipment people or groups can use. He said currently the channel airs city council and board of supervisors’ meetings, covers large events such as the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, and did an informational piece on the myths and realities of the city’s public transportation system. “Our community is a nice little gem,” Tonkin said. “The city is starting to understand how to use the station to show that.” Tonkin will be presented with the 2009 City Volunteer of the Year award April 17 at the Gold Country Fairgrounds at the State of the Community Dinner. Tickets are available at the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, (530) 885-5616. The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at or post a comment. ---------- Get to know: Glenn Tonkin Living on the edge: Tonkin and his wife, Deborah, got married on a cliff in Yosemite National Park. Their witness was a climber who happened to walk by when they were getting ready to exchange vows. Did you know: After learning about software, Tonkin rewrote the operating system for Atari, one of the first computer entertainment game companies, and was owned one of the first licenses the company ever issued Hobbies: Golf and playing the eight guitars, including acoustic and electric, he owns. “For a long time that’s why I never had a career path because I got into playing music and I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll be a rock star.’” Age: 47 Residence: Moved to Auburn in 2000 Family: Wife of 13 years, Deborah, and son, Clayton, 26, Iraq war veteran ----------