Occupation: retired from Army, has worked as actor
Political experience: first bid for elected office
Devin Pandy is hoping to take on a major role starting in January, and it has nothing to do with acting.
The retired Army officer who has dabbled in Hollywood movies and TV shows has committed himself to seeking a two-year term as U.S. House 9th District representative, replacing Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, who is running for U.S. Senate.
“I have pretty much dedicated everything to the campaign,” said Pandy, 46, who is facing Republican Andrew Clyde of Jackson County in the Nov. 3 general election for the Northeast Georgia seat.
Pandy found his political interests stirred during President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearings last year and in particular watching Collins at work as House Judiciary Committee ranking member.
“I decided there on the spot I needed to become involved,” Pandy said during a recent interview with The Times in Gainesville.
He explored supporting a candidate rather than becoming one himself. When he was approached about entering the 9th District race, “my first thought was ‘No, I don’t know what I’m doing, I’ve never run for public office,’” Pandy said.
“But then I thought about it and realized if I don’t stand up and say something, then I become complicit in what’s happening (politically), and I refuse to do that.”
The sense of duty may be traced to his father. Pandy said he and his father had a strained relationship until his death in 2017, but he always wanted to emulate his father’s love of country and dedication to the military.
Pandy’s father joined the Army in 1978, after the family had immigrated from Pandy’s native Belize in Central America.
“I spent my life as an Army brat,” said Pandy, who became a naturalized citizen in 1981. “I didn’t have an upbringing in any one place. My father was very much a country boy, so everywhere we went, if we had a backyard, we had a garden and animals. And I don’t mean just dogs. We had chickens, turtles and a goat once.”
To this day, he is comfortable in cowboy hat and boots. “I always wanted to tie in my hat and boots with a coat and tie, and now I’m able to do that,” he said, with a laugh.
And Pandy’s father was serious about his duty to the U.S. A strong sense of patriotism, including standing as a family when the national anthem was played, “was ingrained in me from a very young age.”
Pandy spent 21 years in the Army, retiring as a chief warrant officer and following five deployments, including to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
After the military, “I promised myself I would not work for 6 months, never have a 9-5 job, and I’d travel the world,” said Pandy, who ended up traveling for four months, including backpacking across Europe.
Acting came about by accident. He was helping someone else look for an audition when he came across a part in an independent film being made in Philadelphia.
“They were looking for some to play a soldier who was trying to save the world,” Pandy said. “(Later), I thought, ‘I’m not an actor, but I could play a soldier all day.’”
He auditioned, got the part and caught the acting bug. Since then, he has had bit parts (“no major speaking roles,” Pandy said) in TV and film, including “The Walking Dead” and The Rock’s upcoming movie “Red Notice.”
The COVID-19 pandemic put acting on hold, but that was OK as Pandy turned his sights on the congressional campaign, which meant forging through a three-person primary and runoff.
His top issue is health care.
“That’s something that affects everyone,” Pandy said. “We’re stuck in this loop of sick care versus health care. The only way to get out of that loop is to provide everyone with affordable, quality health care.”
Also, Pandy said he would be a “big advocate” for veterans, saying he would like to see legislation that would help homeless and needy veterans get “the housing, training, education, health care assistance and career placement they need to become self-sufficient.”
Another concern of Pandy’s is making sure workers deemed essential during the pandemic get more attention, such as making sure they get personal protective equipment as needed, hazard pay, paid sick leave if they get COVID-19 and testing for them and their families.
“That keeps the workers safe at work, their families safe at home and keeps us all safe in our communities,” he said.