‘Solana Steve’ never gives up


Steve Goetsch is in the business of helping people. Serving as the chief physicist for the San Diego Gamma Knife Center at Scripps Memorial Hospital since 1994, he has helped treat more than 3,400 patients for brain tumors and other diseases.

His Solana Beach neighborhood is a far cry from his Midwestern stomping grounds of Iowa, where he was born, and Missouri, where he was raised. After earning his undergraduate degree from Michigan State, a graduate degree from Northwestern University, and another graduate degree and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, a job with the UCLA Medical Center brought him west.

“Years of wild fire, Rodney King riots, the Northridge earthquake and O.J. Simpson persuaded us to move to San Diego,” he said. Nearly 20 later, he loves his home in Solana Beach, where he’s affectionately known by many neighbors as “Solana Steve” thanks to his high level of community-involvement: He serves as chair of the Solana Beach Clean and Green Committee and Public Safety Commission; chair of the Solana Homeowners Association Group; and, most recently, helped launch Citizens Against Freeway Expansion.

When he’s not working or serving his community, Goetsch is teaching graduate-level medical physics classes at SDSU. Goetsch is married to Mona, who teaches at Del Mar Pines School and Nativity School in Fairbanks Ranch. Their son, David, will graduate from The Bishop’s School in June of next year.

What brought you to Solana Beach?

I got here by accident: I was living with my family in Del Mar Heights when the home we were renting was about to be sold, back in 1997. We looked at a few houses, then I had to leave on a trip to Beijing, China. While I was there my wife reached me and had me sign papers and fax them back to buy a house I barely remembered. It was an extremely fortunate decision!

What makes this town special to you?

I grew up in Crestwood, Missouri, a town eerily similar to Solana Beach. Crestwood is a suburb of St. Louis, almost exactly the same size, shape and population as Solana Beach, sitting astride the old Route 66 just as Solana Beach is divided by I-5. Both cities are small enough to know seemingly everyone.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in the area?

I would reduce the size of the freeways, add much more public transportation and clean up the air we breathe!

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by people who do what they dream, like Jimmy Carter still building homes through Habitat for Humanity, or Brad Pitt rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?

My scientific heroes for sure: Newton, Einstein, Galileo and Madame Curie. Then my favorite national leaders, such as Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington. I would invite Mark Twain as the moderator and humorist.

Tell us about what you are currently reading.

“Merchants of Doubt” by UCSD professor Naomi Orestes, about scientists who sell their opinions to industry-sponsored institutes.

What is your most-prized possession?

My good health! Old Serbian proverb: “A healthy man has many dreams, while a sick man has only one.”

What do you do for fun?

I love college football and basketball, and, sometimes, professional baseball. I love astronomy and the outdoors. I gave up camping years ago — too many bugs out there!

Please describe your greatest accomplishment.

Other than marrying above myself and raising an outstanding son, I don’t think it has happened yet! If I can help bring this region to understand how important our environment is and how much we are endangering it right now, that would be my greatest achievement.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

My parents grew up in the Great Depression, in hard times I can’t even imagine. They both had the philosophy that they refused to let anything defeat them. Perhaps it’s the Iowa stubborn in me, or growing up in Missouri, which is famous for its mules! If you believe something is right, you just have to keep fighting for it, no matter how great the opposition.