Elected to the Vista City Council in November 2010, Dave Cowles sat down yesterday to fill in the blanks for voters who maybe have never heard his name before and are looking to cast their votes for serious local leaders this November.
Asked what unique qualities he brings to the ensemble known as the Vista City Council, Dr. Cowles points to a background, education and training that helps him "to collaborate, to hear all sides, to be empathetic to what the issues are, and then try and bring diverse opinions together to achieve a common goal."
Cowles is California-born, but he attended Seattle Pacific University where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. He went on then to a Master’s Degree from San Diego State University and then earned his Doctorate Degree from the University of La Verne. "... I was up there in the northwest for four years, came back down here and spent the first part of my teaching career in Merced up in the central valley." Because his family lived in Oceanside and Escondido, from 1960 on, Cowles says he has always thought of the area as "home base." He returned in the late 1990s to take on the superintendent position at Vista Unified and states emphatically that his home is here. "We would never leave. We love it."
Diversity, opportunities, schools
"One of the greatest things about Vista, I think, is the diversity of the communities of people," says Dave Cowles. But, he adds with a smile, two more items which might fall under that heading: "... the opportunities for activities and the schools."
Cowles lives in the Shadowridge neighborhood of Vista with his wife Janis, but the way he sees it, there are actually four unique communities which make up the City of Vista.
"We have ... four distinct communities. There's downtown, there's the foothills, there's the Shadowridge, and then there's the other neighborhood areas ... around downtown."
While he says he "never really had a hangout in any walk of life," he and his wife do enjoy the options offered in the Downtown. "The new Main Street restaurants and attractions make it kind of a fun place and a vibrant place to find some energy of social connections. Mother Earth Brewery is a great place, Urbn Pizza we love to do that. We frequent a variety of the restaurants in the area, but we do a lot of our dining and evening activities in and around Vista."
When prompted with a question of "why" he took on the elected office in the first place after his retirement, Cowles said this:
"Because of my role as school superintendent, I interacted a lot with city leadership, with the elected officials here, just as a part of the management of the school district. And when I retired, I was enjoying that stage of my life and after about four years of retirement, uh, Judy [Ritter] was about to run in a change from council to mayor, and she really wanted to try to have a council that she could count on to help the city move forward, to be supportive of the city efforts, and ... really take Vista to the next level. And she, I guess, knew of my role with the school district and my role within the community, and encouraged me to do it. And then she and my wife got together -- we were going to a Moonlight [Amphitheater] event-- and they both aimed their guns at me and convinced me that it would be a good thing to do. So I ran, and I've never looked back. I am enjoying my time on the council."
He says that his wife has been "very supportive" of him during his first term as a member of the city council.
Damaging deficits and Downtown
In pointing to his accomplishments, Cowles says one thing at the top of the list is the situation in 2010 with the $15,000,000 structural deficit and the Downtown revitalization.
"Well, two things in looking back that were important accomplishments that I've helped with: One was to move us from the nearly $15 million structural deficit into a positive ending balance. And that was a difficult thing to do, because you know this was one of the worst recessions that the state and the local economy have faced since the Great Depression." Further, Cowles said:
"And ... we had to make some pretty severe cuts. We hurt a lot of programs. We hurt young people, elderly people in the first two years because we had to reduce and eliminate some really good programs. But through it all we've begun to rebuild those things, and it is my hope to continue to build back to a level of service and support that we always had in the past, that we've been known for. And we rebuilt some youth sports activities, reduced and eliminated the fees that were imposed, those i think were great things for the city."
The other accomplishment he is proud of, says Cowles, is the continuation of the Downtown revitalization. "The Paseo Santa Fe project, while somewhat derailed by the state's taking away redevelopment, we've kept it on track to the extent that we can with the plans that were in place. And I think uh people are going to see in the coming months a great, new renewal down there along Santa Fe. So those are things that I think I'm proud to create a change in the face of the appearance, the attractiveness of Vista."
He adds with a happy note something else. "The biggest thing that's happened, I don't know how much the council had to do with it, was bringing in a vitalized downtown. I mean people from around the region come in to the Krikorian complex, to the restaurants there, the microbrewery outlets, and I hear comments from neighbors who didn't use to ever come to downtown Vista, and they're discovering it. So I think we have a new, revitalized core for our city."
The main thing Cowles feels he brings to the council is "a level of cooperation" to create "a council and a city that works hand-in-glove together to meet the needs of our citizens."
"And that means that we don't get bogged down in petty arguments or petty beefs that distract from the common goal. So my hope would be ... to keep Vista as a city that is known for working well together. For the council, and the leadership and the staff of the city, that we get along. We have a common interest in making Vista a better place."
When asked to consider three adjectives which he might pick to describe himself, Cowles picks these: "calm - thoughtful - positive."
For residents or business owners who would like to speak directly with Councilmember Cowles, it is best to contact him at his office: (760) 639.6130 extension 1432.