Joel Broussard, a 2016 Elk Grove mayoral candidate, was fatally injured in an 11-vehicle collision on Interstate 5, near Florin Road on Sept. 8. He was 39 and the father of four children.
Sacramento County coroners identified him as the deceased victim on Sept. 10.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) stated that the collision was reported around 5:40 p.m. on southbound Interstate 5. Investigators determined that a tractor-trailer combination was traveling in the freeway’s #2 lane when its driver failed to slow down before approaching slower traffic.
Authorities said the tractor-trailer then struck a vehicle, which caused a chain reaction collision with nine other vehicles.
Broussard was reportedly driving a Chrysler 300 when he was struck by the speeding truck. The CHP stated that two people were hospitalized for minor injuries. Investigators don’t believe that alcohol or drug use was a factor in the collision, the CHP reported.
He worked as a practice manager for Kids Care Dental & Orthodontics before his passing. His co-workers organized a Go Fund Me online fundraiser to benefit his family at https://www.gofundme.com/f/in-remembrance-of-joel-broussard.
“Joel was a perfect example of how with the right self-confidence and motivation you can achieve your wildest dreams,” organizer Zarah Armstrong wrote on the Go Fund Me page. “He made it his mission to spread this message of self-empowerment to everyone around him.”
Joel’s family fondly remembers him
During an interview with the Citizen on Sept. 14, several of Broussard’s family members reminisced about his life.
He was born in Beaumont, Texas on Aug. 7, 1981, and that he was raised in Vallejo. Joel was the youngest child of the three children of Alvin and Irma Broussard.
During his youth, he enjoyed playing football, baseball and basketball. His family described him as a mentor to many people, as he served as a life coach and a volunteer at the YMCA.
Although Broussard spent many years as a leader, he did not often seek roles with titles.
Karona Eldemire, Joel’s oldest sister, said that Joel was encouraged by his high school peers to run for class president.
“He would look and say, ‘Why would I want to do that?, What does the class president do?’” she said. “‘What you’re doing,’ (they responded). He would say, ‘Then why would I need to be a class president? I’ll just continue doing what I’m doing.’”
Eldemire added that Broussard’s role as a leader resulted in his entry in a “Who’s Who” book.
Joel’s desire to be a “do’er” in life was apparent at a very young age, Eldemire noted.
Eldemire told a story about when Broussard was 3 years old and he approached ABC News anchor Sam Donaldson during an airline flight.
“Joel gets out of his seat (after learning that Donaldson was sitting in the first-class section) and he walks up to the curtain and he opens the curtain and he looks in, and he said, ‘Well, it is Sam Donaldson,’” she said. “Instead of being startled by (the situation), he said, ‘Yes, I am Mr. Sam Donaldson. Who are you?’
“Joel was 3, and he said, ‘I’m Joel-David Broussard,’ with this big grin on his face. I remember Mr. Donaldson looked at him and said, ‘Well, aren’t you destined for greatness.’ (Joel) smiled real big, gave him a handshake and sat right back down in his seat between me and my brother. He was very ambitious, and that was honestly how he lived his entire life.”
With that ambition, Broussard became a firefighter in about 1999, despite being told that he did not have the right sized body for that job. He also worked as a manager at Old Navy and worked in real estate in Sacramento.
His “do’er” approach to life eventually led to his decision to run for mayor of Elk Grove.
Eldemire noted that Broussard’s run for that office was initiated through his dissatisfaction with roundabouts in the Stonelake neighborhood.
“(He said), ‘That roundabout makes no sense,’” she said. “(As mayor), I could work with the people and show them it makes no sense.’ I still was looking at someone who had no political background whatsoever who now says he’s going to be mayor. But I learned over the years, you just kind of leave him alone.”
Thinking back on that time, Eldemire said she thought, ‘He may actually pull this off.’ I think he would have walked right in there as the mayor and done it well.”
Broussard worked as a Coca-Cola district manager when he decided to run for mayor of Elk Grove four years ago. It was his first time running for public office.
“I’ve always been motivated to contribute in some form or way, and definitely serve others,” Broussard told the Citizen during a 2016 video interview. “The ultimate servant you can be is becoming a mayor because you’re ultimately serving the city.”
He campaigned to motivate more community members to get involved in the city government’s planning process.
“I am committed to push their agendas, make sure their voices are being heard and to form the relationship between our leaders and citizens – showing elected officials are ultimately servants of the community,” Broussard said during his campaign kickoff at the Falls Event Center on May 16, 2016.
He finished fifth in the seven-candidate mayoral race that was won by current mayor, Steve Ly.
Angie Broussard said that her late husband loved Elk Grove for its diversity and for its approach to celebrating that diversity.
“We have a mixed family with a lot of diverse backgrounds, so we wanted to raise our family in a place that would celebrate that,” she said.
Angie mentioned that of all of Broussard’s activities, he was most passionate about his work as a life coach for people locally and throughout the nation and other parts of the world.
“That was the reason he kept getting out of bed in the morning,” she said. “He was all about helping people.”
She added that Broussard was also very savvy in the business world, had a “good understanding how negotiations work,” and enjoyed cooking, donating blood, coaching youth football, and talking about sports.
Broussard additionally wrote a book on his experiences while fasting for 60 days to help him reach his spiritual goals and further improve himself. That book, “The Great Water Fasting Journey,” was published in 2017 and can be purchased through Amazon.com.
Broussard’s mother, Irma, mentioned that although he died on her birthday, she cherishes having received a phone call from him on the last day of his life. She said that he sang, “Happy Birthday” to her shortly before his fatal accident.
She also requested to share a few more words about her son.
“He was my little baby,” she said. “He was the youngest of three, but he always carried himself like he was the one in control, the oldest, and that was even more apparent after his daddy died (in 2009).
“He died of cancer and we all suffered as we watched him leave us. And Joel made a promise to his dad that he would take care of me. And Joel went above and beyond that by rising up and becoming the patriarch of the family.”
Joel-David Broussard II described his father as a person who sought to bring “fun to any situation.”
“Even if it was some dark times, he would try to bring everyone up,” he said. “And he liked helping people. A month or two ago, we went out and cooked some food for some homeless people. It made him feel good to help people whenever he could.”
Angie told the Citizen that Broussard would want to be remembered as an example to others, of a man who lived passionately and followed his dreams.
“He would want to be remembered as an example for others to follow, as far as giving to people and loving people and doing whatever you can,” she said. “Even if you don’t have much, you can still donate (many things), whatever your passion is, and to live passionately.
“(He believed that) if you’re not fulfilling the life that you want to fulfill, then change the way you’re living life, (and) don’t be scared to follow your dreams.”