Editor’s note: This is the third article in a weekly series profiling the candidates in the District 3 County Supervisor race. The candidates for the District 3 seat include Dave Roberts, Carl Hilliard, Steve Danon, Stephen Pate and Bryan Ziegler.
By Claire Harlin
Under California state law, paid public office holders must collect their salaries, and Solana Beach City Council members are paid $600 per month for the hours of service they dedicate to the city. But being employed full-time in addition to his role as deputy mayor, Dave Roberts saw charitable donations as a better use of that money.
“My mom and dad taught me that it was better to give than to receive and I want to set the example for our five young children,” said Roberts, who has donated more than $50,000 in salary pay to local and regional charities such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Dieguito and Casa de Amistad.
Being a leader, not only to his family and community, but on the political front is a driving force behind Roberts’ campaign to become the next District 3 County Supervisor.
Voters are waking up to how critical this race is, Roberts said, not only because the winner will be the first new member on the Board of Supervisors in 15 years — and in District 3 in 20 years — but because, due to a recent change in term limits, the entire board will turn over within the next decade.
Even though the supervisor seat is non-partisan, Roberts, the only Democratic candidate, could bring a different perspective to the all-Republican board. This could change the climate of the board as it turns over, and Roberts, who would also be the first ever openly gay man elected to the board, could be a leader in that change.
“I’ll be the first one there starting this dialogue and talking to potential board colleagues,” Roberts said, adding that he has already gotten started in the job by meeting with current supervisors to discuss and learn about the issues facing District 3.
Despite his more liberal political affiliation, Roberts said one of his assets is that he gets along with everyone and unites people from across political spectrums. He’s received endorsements from former San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye on the left to former Bush Administration U.S. Secretary for Veterans Affairs James Peake on the right.
“When [Peake] endorsed me, he said ‘I’ve never endorsed a Democrat in my life, but Dave, if you’re a Democrat then I must be a Democrat too because this isn’t about being Democrat or Republican, it’s about serving veterans in San Diego County,’” Roberts said of Peake, who is also a former Army surgeon general.
Possibly his most valuable blessing, Roberts has also garnered the endorsement of current District 3 Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, who will leave her seat at the end of the year.
“People don’t see me as a political person; they see me as a community leader,” said Roberts. “This is a non-partisan race … San Diego is a majority Democratic county, but there’s no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole or solve a problem in San Diego County.”
When Roberts strolled into Solana Beach’s Java Depot for a recent interview, at least a handful of waves and handshakes came his way.
“This is Dave Roberts country,” said Brian Fuller, the coffee shop’s owner.
Local businessman Jim Harker, who’s lived in Solana Beach since the 1950s, eagerly approached Roberts and, with a pat on the back, said “I’m afraid we will miss you here on the City Council.”
To locals, it may seem as if Roberts is everywhere at once. He drops into numerous events a day with campaign manager Roger Boyd, a longtime Solana Beach resident who got to know Roberts years ago from inviting him in for dinner with his wife, Mary Jane, while Roberts was walking door to door campaigning for City Council.
Roberts said he sees the campaign process as a vital time to connect with the community. That’s why he has taken a sabbatical from his job as vice president of government relations for the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), a cause-based organization focused on the optimal use of information technology in healthcare, to dedicate time to his campaign. In his personal life, Roberts also stays busy with his five adopted children.
“It’s been 20 years since there hasn’t been an incumbent on the ballot, so one of the things people want is a leader who’s out in the community, visible, accessible and connected to a number of activities going on,” Roberts said. “I think a lot of people are wondering, ‘Who’s this guy Pam Slater-Price has endorsed?’ and when people get to know me they seem very supportive. When people meet me, I feel like they will vote for me.”
May 29 is the last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot and June 5 is Election Day.
For more information on Roberts, visit www.daverobertsforsupervisor.com.