Poway’s City Council Members Connect Residents to 92064

With Poway being such an intimate city, 92064 residents are able to really be involved with the officials that help run the city. While some readers may know our mayor and City Council members personally or by what they’ve done while public servants to the city and it’s residents, others may not. We talked with Mayor Don Higginson, Deputy Mayor Dave Grosch, and Councilmembers Jim Cunningham, John Mullin, and Steve Vaus about their vision for Poway’s future and goals for the upcoming year.

Q&A with Mayor Don Higginsonhiggingson

What is the history of Poway City Council?
Prior to 1980, Poway was an unincorporated area of the County of San Diego. With a push by a number of residents that desired more ‘local control’, Poway became an official City on Dec. 1, 1980.The City is comprised of five members that are elected by the citizens of Poway to serve for four-year terms. The mayor has been directly elected since 1990. The City Council is accountable to all Poway residents for all services provided by the city and oversees the expenditure of all City funds. The City Council appoints the city manager and city attorney.

What inspired you to run for mayor of Poway?
My experience in growing up in Poway was unique, as I trust you might appreciate what Poway was like in its earlier years. So when Becky and I married over thirty-three years ago, it was a simple decision to raise our children here. As soon as we started having children, I was motivated to become involved and to work to keep Poway special and provide my children the same great experience I had in living in such a fine community. This is what inspired me to run for Poway City Council and mayor, and continues to motivate me to collectively do all we can to maintain the vibrant atmosphere of Poway.

Please give readers a brief personal history of your life prior to becoming mayor.
I was born into a Navy family while my dad was stationed in Hawaii and then spent a few years in Taiwan. My family moved to the San Diego area when I was 6 and my folks bought a lot and my dad built a home in the small town of Poway (many years prior to cityhood). I attended Meadowbrook Middle School, Poway High and Palomar Junior College. I then transferred to Brigham Young University and graduated from Law School in San Diego. I met my wife on a blind date at the 2nd Holiday Bowl Football game. We were married shortly thereafter and decided to raise our family in Poway. I was elected to the City Council in 1986 and as mayor in 1992.

What are your primary responsibilities as mayor?
As mayor, I run our monthly meetings, represent Poway both locally and regionally, and must ensure that our citizen’s interests, (both residential and commercial) are provided for and protected. The mayor also must cultivate an atmosphere that allows each Poway councilmember the ability to realize the goals and desires they have for our community.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
It is always rewarding to set goals for the city and then witness the efforts and passion of so many in working together to get positive results. It could be our dedication to a safe community, our well maintained roads, streets, utilities, trails and parks, the city’s financial stability, or protecting our overall quality of life. But, the most rewarding part of being mayor is when a member of the public, young or old comes up to me out of the blue and says, “Keep up the good work, I love living in Poway”.

What has been the biggest accomplishment by the Poway City Council during your term?
Our Poway residents desire to have a safe community with excellent streets, clean water, youth and adult activities, open space, parks, good schools, a vibrant business community, improving property values, and of course, all of this with a balanced budget. I believe that notwithstanding a difficult economy and negative interference by the state, the Poway City Council during my term continued to provide the services and results our residents need and expect.

What do you hope to accomplish for Poway this coming year?
Within the framework of 2014 being an election year, we look forward to hiring a new city manager for our community and keeping the trust of our residents in providing them a safe well run city with the services they desire. With the economy starting to improve we look forward to attracting additional needed business to the city and ensuring a strong financial foundation. We have been working on a number of technology initiatives that we hope to see come to fruition in 2014. These are intended to better connect residents with City Hall, open lines of communications, and provide greater access and transparency. Along that vein, the city will be launching ‘YourGov’, an application that will allow residents to report community issues such as broken streetlights, potholes or graffiti via a free smartphone app. There will also be a new utility billing system that will provide enhanced web options and greater access to your water consumption history, and the upgrading of the city website to improve functionality and content.

Can you provide information about the Adopted Marines Battalion and any other similar programs that the City Council is responsible for?
On May 25, 2004, the Poway City Council formally adopted the 1,180 member 1st LAR Battalion of the 1st Marine Division based at Camp Pendleton. This was through the America Supporting Americans Adopt-a-Military Unit Program. Poway has always prided itself on recognizing the importance of our military families and felt this adoption was something all parties would benefit from. In addition to providing resources and support at critical times of the year such as the holidays, the City recently attempted to provide some transition education. In the fall of 2013, the 1st LAR spent the morning at the City’s Public Works yard focusing on careers in Public Works and transition tips for moving from a military career to the civilian work world. This included resume development, one-on-one mentoring and a job fair. We hope this has provided exiting members of the military with insight and will better prepare them to become competitive in the civilian work force.

What other local organizations are you/have you been involved with?
I enjoy my activities with the Boy Scouts of America, our schools, the Toys for Tots Literacy Program, Meals on Wheels and my local Church.

How do you manage to balance your personal and professional life along with your duties as mayor?
Over a period of time, experience has demonstrated to me that with a very supportive wife and family, an unbelievable support team of motivated Poway citizens, volunteers, and City staff, that personal and professional needs are relatively easy to balance, but it is essential to focus and prioritize.

Your current term ends in 2014, what is your plan from that point?
I have never been apologetic for what a special and unique city we have in Poway. I have enjoyed working with the City Council and our citizens and will run for mayor in 2014 with the desire and hope that I can continue to represent Poway and our residents to the best of my ability.

Mayor Don Higginson
Community: Valle Verde Ranch
Profession: Senior Vice President – The UPS Store, Inc.
Education: Poway High School, B.A. Political Science – Brigham Young University, J.D. Thomas Jefferson Law School
Family Information: Married to Becky for 33 years. (She worked as an OBGYN RN at Pomerado for over 20 years.); Three sons – Matt (32), Colby (30), Ryan (26); Daughter-in-Law – Corrine; Granddaughter – Amelia
Hobbies/Interest: Family, sports, raquetball, reading, yard work Favorite Place in Poway: Old Poway Park

Q&A with with Deputy Mayor Dave Groschgrosch

What are your responsibilities as Deputy Mayor?
When the mayor is unable to be at a Council meeting, I will step in for him. In addition, I am responsible for the Pledge of Allegiance at our council meeting. So if you want to recognize a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop, or a sports teams or a volunteer organization, then give me a call and we will arrange for you to lead the Pledge at a City Council meeting.

What is your personal history before becoming involved with the City Council?
Early on as we were raising our children we were involved with our City, but mostly with sports and our schools. As our children grew, our involvement grew to citywide issues, mostly in South Poway. I began to voice my concerns at our city council meeting and through letters to the editors in our local paper. When the recall and special election came up in 2010, many of my friends urged me to throw my hat in the ring. After discussing this with my family, I filed my paperwork to run for that seat. I lost that election, but came in fourth out of eight candidates. This spurred me on to run in the general election in November of that year. I went all out in my effort to get elected, and I didn’t want to lose because I hadn’t given it my all. With the help of my family and some very close friends and a whole lot of shoe leather, I was fortunate to come in as one of the top two vote getters and was elected to the City Council. And I now I’m the deputy mayor. Who would have thought!

What inspired you to become involved in the City of Poway?
Our family moved to Poway almost twenty-three years ago. We moved into a neighborhood where almost all of us had small children. As the kids grew, we knew this would be our hometown for the rest of our lives. I take great pride in this city and the way it is managed. It is not always perfect and for that reason, I knew that one more voice could always help. I was never shy about voicing my opinion. The one thing I always strived for was to have Poway be the absolute best town it could possibly be.

What has been the biggest accomplishment during your term?
During my campaign in 2010, I promised to bring common sense, fairness and an independent voice to the city council. I also promised to respond to all emails and phone calls I receive as a member of your City Council. I’ve always strived to be accessible to all Poway’s citizens. I believe I have kept my promises. I especially enjoy the meetings over coffee with people who have something to say regarding Poway. I take a lot of pride in the fact that I have been available to anyone who wants to voice a complaint or concern to me. I am grateful to the people of Poway for giving me the opportunity to listen to them and be their voice on the City Council. When I run for re-election in 2014, I promise to continue to do the same.

What other local organizations are you/have been involved with?
I currently belong to our local VFW, Kiwanis Club, the Backyard Produce Garden and support the Neighborhood Healthcare Organization. Previously, I was a Little League manager/board member of the Poway National Little League, Poway Youth Basketball coach, a Red Cross volunteer during Hurricane Katrina, and a founding member of the Pomerado Elementary School Foundation.

Deputy Mayor Dave Grosch
Community: Parkside at Rancho Arbolitas
Profession: Retired finance/project control manager – 30 years’ experience at SAIC and TRW (now part of Northrop Grumman)
Education: BS Business Administration – Loyola University, Los Angeles
Military: USAF 1966-1970 – Spent one year in Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam
Family Information: Married almost 40 years to Patty. We have two children: Lindsey and Alex, who are both 24.
Hobbies/Interest: Attend Poway High basketball, football and softball games. And when time permits, we visit our daughter in Bend, OR.
Favorite Place in Poway: Old Poway Park, with the Midland Railroad, Veterans Park, our Gazebo, Templar’s Hall, Farmers Market and our famous Hamburger Factory. Thanks to our City and our many volunteers for making this one of the best destinations to visit in San Diego County.

Q&A with with Councilman Jim Cunninghamcuningham

What are your primary responsibilities as a member of the city council?
A council member is first and foremost the voice of the community charged with the responsibility to listen, study, recommend, empathize, and ensure they are truly “hearing” and understanding what the current opinions and issues the community is interested in or concerned about. Then they take the citizen’s ideas or concerns and determine how and if the City can help, facilitate, or address the citizen’s ideas or concerns. Then finally get it done within a reasonable time.
The Poway City council is also the policy-making body for the city. The council is responsible for making decisions about which direction the city is going, how the City will spend its money, what projects the City will work on, and how to protect and improve the citizen’s quality of life. Making policy is an ongoing activity that develops when the council adopts ordinances revises or adopts the general plan and considers the ranking of projects in a capital improvements program.
All of the above requires dedication and hard work if the Council is doing their job.

What inspired you to become involved in the City of Poway?
In 2009, Poway was facing the loss of their most senior councilmen, Bob Emery who was retiring, it was in the midst of its worst drought in its history, the economy was crumbling with significant deficits and cuts in service on the horizon, and our Mayor Mickey Cafagna was ill. I felt having been active in business and the community of the past twenty years that I could help the City in its time of need. Public service has been an important part of my family’s life for decades. So I decided to run for office. I was fortunate enough to have been elected twice since making that decision.

What is the most rewarding part of serving the residents of Poway?
Without question, for me, the most rewarding part of being on Council is working with my fellow councilmembers and with folks like the Veterans in Poway, the sports teams coaches and families, the citizens who want safer streets, business owners, and the many other groups that I have had the honor of helping realize their dreams and ideas for a better quality of life for Poway citizens.

Councilman Jim Cunningham

Community: Valle Verde Ranch
Profession: Attorney, businessman
Education: Bachelor Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of South Florida (1981), law degree (JD) from Western State University, San Diego (1985)
Family: Married and father of four children (ages 25, 21, 18, 15), all raised in Poway.
Hobbies/Interests: I enjoy running, hiking and riding the trails throughout Poway and San Diego. I volunteer my time as a Board of Director for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, the Greater San Diego Boys and Girls Club, Poway Kiwanis and the San Dieguito Riverpark.
Favorite Place in Poway: I always enjoy going to Old Poway Park with the Veterans Park, the Hamburger Factory, the Poway Railroad, museums, Farmers Market, and all of the great events Poway hosts at the Park.


Q&A with with Councilman John Mullinmullin

What is your personal history before becoming involved with the City Council?
My wife Susie and I moved to Poway in 1976. That was thirty-seven years and three children ago. I’ve always been in a real estate related business either as a painting subcontractor or as a general contractor/homebuilder. I am a former director of the Poway Chamber of Commerce and former chair of its Governmental Affairs Committee; former President of the Poway Girls Softball League; twice the chair of the PHS Grad Nite Construction Committee; and was a founding member of the now inactive Poway Taxpayers Association.

What inspired you to become involved in the City of Poway?
How much time do you have? I had been engaged in local issues and local government for a long time, but decided to run in the 2010 recall election. Our City was in relative turmoil caused by the unfortunate passing of Mayor Cafagna and the contentious recall of a sitting Council member. Concurrently, I was very frustrated with decisions being made in Sacramento and Washington D.C. My choices were to sit on the sidelines and continue to complain or to do what I could to proactively contribute to what I believed to be sound governance. I chose the latter.

What has been your biggest accomplishment as a councilmember?
During my term as deputy mayor, I established a relationship with the City’s adopted battalion, the 1st LAR (Light Armored Reconnaissance) at Camp Pendleton. Our city is almost built out, so to maintain a vibrant local economy – a requisite condition for a vibrant city – I initiated several changes to facilitate private investment in Poway. One was a streamlining initiative to shorten the time and reduce the cost of obtaining City approval of selected permits, including permits for new hillside homes. I also initiated the 3 Day Plan Check for small tenant improvement projects in our industrial park. In one way or another, we all benefit from a healthy local economy, and I have initiated steps to minimize the City sponsored impediments to economic growth.

Councilman John Mullin

Community: Del Poniente
Profession: President, Pacific M Painting, Inc., a commercial and residential painting contractor
Education: Graduated with high honors and academic distinction from SDSU with a BS in Business Management
Family: Married to Susie with grown children Charlotte, Denise and Jeffrey. Four grandchildren with a fifth coming in June 2014.
Hobbies/Interests: Motorcycles, politics, economics, grandkids
Favorite Place in Poway: Our backyard on an evening with family and friends

Q&A with with Councilman Steve Vausvaus

What are your primary responsibilities as a member of the City Council?
I consider my primary responsibility to be connecting the citizens to the Council and the City. Folks appreciate knowing there is someone who they can call to get an answer to a question or to help with a problem. To accomplish that I try to be proactive with outreach – I send a weekly email newsletter that reaches nearly 7,000 residents.

What inspired you to become involved in the City of Poway?
Poway does so many things right – being a safe city with great streets and a city with unparalleled recreational opportunities – those qualities are in Poway’s DNA. However, I felt we could do a better job building a sense of community; a better job connecting people to their local government; a better job building bridges between the City and the business community – a better job of being public servants in every sense of that word.

What is the most rewarding part of serving the residents of Poway?
I love exceeding people’s expectations. Sad to say, most folks have come to expect no response when they reach out to elected officials. So when I answer their phone call or email within hours of receiving it, when I show up at their door to talk about a problem they’re having, it’s fun to see their surprise and delight that someone cares. When residents think about Poway I want them to think of us as the ‘Nordstrom’ of cities – to know they come first and that my job is to serve them.

Councilman Steve Vaus

Community: Valle Verde Ranch
Profession: Small business owner and recording artist
Education: Eisenhower College
Family: Wife – Corrie; Kids still at home – Jacob (15) and Anna (17); Grown kids – Amanda and Emily
Hobbies/Interests: Horseback riding; I serve as a reserve mounted park ranger
Favorite Place in Poway: Home with my family