She was born at Enloe Hospital in Chico, raised in Corning, attended Shasta College and graduated from CSU, Chico, with a Bachelor's in Communications. Her mother and grandmother were born in Oroville. She has deep Butte County roots - going back to 1860 when her great, great, great grandfather, Phillip Klos settled in Mountain Spring and then moved to Enterprise where her great, great, grandmother Lena Klof (Klos) was born in 1863. And to 1898 on her great, great grandfather's side. He is described in George Mansfield's History of Butte County, California, as "A worthy descendant of a 'forty-niner,' and himself the father of an enterprising and energetic family, is Thomas J. Lucas, of Bidwell’s Bar. Thomas J. Lucas married Miss Lena Klof, born at Enterprise, Butte County, the daughter of Philip Klof, the pioneer hotel- and store-keeper at Enterprise." It goes on to describe Thomas J. Lucas as an excellent butcher and rancher and " ... active in any movement for the development of the county; and to this development Mr. Lucas has contributed in a considerable measure by his untiring research work and experimentation."
Her father was the first person in his family to attend college. He became a teacher, a volunteer firefighter and an advocate for girls sports at the school board level and for teachers at the state level. He was also an unofficial spokesperson for the hundreds of migrant farm workers who passed through Corning as they picked olives. It was his activism that inspired Debra to become an advocate and community organizer.
Debra raised her three children in Chico. She is married to Raymond Laager who is president of a local business group and underwriting director for a local radio station.
For nearly two decades, not only has she been involved in economic development but has been at the helm of nonprofits, active in community media, arts, culture, heritage and agricultural pursuits. At the core of this activity is the belief that economic and community development should be built around our local assets and our local people.
Her eight plus years as an award-winning journalist and editor, as well as a "tour of duty" in Washington, D.C. as an information specialist for an Hispanic lobbyist group, seasoned her in government relations and negotiations. Her extensive grant writing background has enabled her to augment educational programs, festivals and events throughout her career. She has long worked with college-age adults, developing specialized internship programs in public relations, marketing, video and television production, as well as event and festival production.
In addition to several other boards, she sat on the Shasta-Cascade Wonderland Board of Directors - representing eight Northern California counties - for more than a decade. Currently, she sits on the Chico Arts Commission as well as on two state boards - California Arts Advocates and Californians for the Arts as well as on the Western Region of the Alliance for Community Media - representing Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico.
She would be proud to represent Butte County as an elected official. "I've been doing it unofficially for years!"