By Karen Billing
Carmel Valley lost one of its strongest voices on May 19 with the passing of Scott Tillson, a long-time Carmel Valley resident and member of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board. Tillson died last week following a heart attack at age 55, surrounded by his family.
Tillson is survived by his wife of 32 years, Pat, and their three children, Sarah, Katie and Michael; his parents John and Dana; and his siblings Jay and Dana, He was a dedicated father who walked his daughter Sarah down the aisle at her wedding eight months ago, was endlessly proud of his daughter Katie’s accomplishments and was a faithful fan at son Michael’s rugby and football games at Torrey Pines High School.
At a May 24 memorial service held at St. Therese of Carmel, where Tillson was a longtime member of the congregation, Katie Tillson aptly described her father as a “towering figure of knowledge.” Tillson’s long history with city council and local politics was an incredible resource for his service on the planning board, according to all who worked with him.
Tillson played a big role in last fall’s passage of Proposition C, which untied Pacific Highlands Ranch’s development from the completion of the Interstate 5/Highway 56 connectors—Tillson also served on the city and Caltrans steering committee for that project.
At planning board meetings, Tillson was one of the most quotable members on the board—always with a thoughtful, witty remark rooted in his deep knowledge of the situation at hand. As his sister Dana said at his service, he was a “keen observer, forever filling his bank” with information.
“You could ask Scott a simple question and he’d give you a three-page answer,” Dana Tillson said.
Katie Tillson said that while she may have doubts about a world without her father, she was certain that “the computers in heaven are operating better than ever and that I will always be proud to be Scott Tillson’s daughter.”
Carmel Valley community members shared memories of Scott:
Frisco White, chair of Carmel Valley Community Planning Board
There is an old expression about whether a person can fill someone else’s shoes. This expression is true for Scott. There isn’t another person than can step into Scott’s shoes and do what he did.
I first met Scott when he would participate from the audience as a concerned community resident during numerous board meetings. At first, I would dread it when I saw his hands up because it may be a long discussion. However, after a few times I came to understand that he wanted to lend a hand and offer the board sage advice and opinions. He was always willing to volunteer to help the board research, develop comments and conditions for approval of development projects. His knowledge of city politics and policies were indispensable and irreplaceable.
Even after Scott was elected to the board, I could always ask for his assistance or have him take on a project without hesitation and with enthusiasm. Quite often I would assign a task to him and before I could blink he would have the rough draft done.
As I worked with Scott throughout the years, I had a better appreciation of his abilities to clearly understand issues that were presented and how he could explain his approach and conclusions in a level and respectful way. On occasion he and I would disagree, but he always respected my position as chair and would move forward with the decision.
His legacy will live on with the passage of Proposition C. This is a project that highlighted what Scott could do and do it well. From the moment I appointed him to head up the board’s Exploratory Committee to the final citywide passage of Proposition C, I saw a man that was focused and with passion explain to voters why the passage of Proposition C was so important to the vitality of Pacific Highlands Ranch.
He was indeed a great person. He will truly be missed but not forgotten.
From Jan Fuchs, CVCPB subcommittee co-chair
I’ve known Scott since he was Councilman Harry Mathis’ chief of staff, in the early 1990s.
He and I, separately and together, analyzed many land use issues affecting not just Carmel Valley but the entire region. We agreed a lot, we fought with each other a lot. Despite the issue, we felt we were both worthy opponents and worthy allies. One aspect of Scott others may not be aware of is this: I particularly understand and applaud Scott’s dedication to community. It is the same dedication that Anne Harvey, Frisco White, and I have and its source is our common upbringing as military “brats” or “juniors.” When you were pulled from town to town, or country to country until you were an adult, “home” becomes a goal even more important than to people who grew up in a stable or stationary lifestyle. “Home” for Scott, Anne, Frisco and me, as others like us, has become Carmel Valley, our first opportunity to set down roots. Scott’s, Anne’s, Frisco’s and my steady dedication to making this community the best it can be is attributable to our living here since Carmel Valley’s beginning — almost a fresh canvas — and our having the ability to help design, preserve, and protect “home.”
Scott brought his exceptional mind, analytical skills, and longing for “home” to our community, a potent combination.
From Manjeet Ranu, Carmel Valley planning board member
Scott Tillson’s significant role in getting Proposition C on the ballot and approved in 2010 for the community was so important, as were all the many, many contributions he made to protect and improve the quality of life in the Carmel Valley area and beyond. He was so bright and his ability to nail an issue was remarkable. I very much enjoyed working with Scott and deeply miss him.
From David Bartick, Carmel Valley planning board member
Scott truly was the heart and soul of the planning board. His experience involving the inner workings of city government was unsurpassed by any other member of the board. He not only had a keen awareness of the bureaucratic operations of local government, but Scott knew how to maneuver within the murky politics of city government to get things accomplished for our community. He was an insightful, intelligent and articulate individual, who always had a practical approach to the most complex of problems. But most of all, I will miss his smile, his sense of humor, and his extreme generosity in sharing his time and wisdom for the betterment of Carmel Valley.
Karen Cody, resident and former Carmel Valley planning board member
I thought personally the hours and years he contributed to our planning board show how much he wanted to make sure that Carmel Valley will always be the fantastic place it is today. Both Scott and I are original homeowners and felt a responsibility to make sure the development of our community is first rate. The knowledge he brought to the board and knowing how to go work through the city system were very valuable to everyone on the board, both past and present. I can’t imagine how hard it will be to fill the Neighborhood 5 position.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to: The Scott Tillson Community Action Fund, c/o 3990 Del Mar Meadows, San Diego, CA 92130.