Solana Beach advocate honored for promoting healthy lifestyles, fighting drug use

Whether through her work or with her free time, Solana Beach’s Peggy Walker has passionately promoted healthy lifestyles and fought drug use in the community for years.

Recently named one of the 78th Assembly District’s 2016 “Woman of the Year” honorees by California Assembly Speaker Emeritus Toni Atkins, Walker’s community service was celebrated during a March 18 awards ceremony in San Diego.

“It’s a huge honor to be recognized by your community,” Walker said. “I’ve lived here for a long time. I love Solana Beach. I’m glad that I can give back in some way.”

Originally from the Bay Area, Walker studied journalism at the University of Missouri and relocated to San Diego County after college. She worked as a reporter at the San Diego Union-Tribune for nearly a decade before transitioning into public relations.

While pregnant with her third son, Walker founded her own PR firm in 1983. The mother of three managed the company for about 10 years until she started writing grants for the Solana Beach School District.

It was through grant writing that Walker was driven to eventually become an advocate for a drug-free environment.

“The things I’ve done in my life have led me to this place here,” said Walker, who has lived in the Del Mar and Solana Beach area for about 45 years. “I hope that it’s a worthwhile cause, and that I’m contributing in a worthwhile way.”

For years, Walker wrote grant applications for tobacco-use prevention education programs at Solana Beach School District and San Dieguito Union High School District.

Through the years, however, she saw tobacco use decline as marijuana use increased.

“We watched the tobacco use data go down, and as the tobacco use went down and down, marijuana use went up,” Walker said. “It’s now skyrocketing. That bothered me a lot. It led me to get involved with drug use prevention and advocacy.”

Walker continued to write educational grants for local school districts and other organizations such as Casa de Amistad, a Solana Beach-based nonprofit organization that provides educational mentoring and tutoring services to underserved children and teens in preschool through 12th grade. In the last 20 years, she has written an estimated $30 million in grants for various educational institutions in the region.

“Getting those grants, it’s very competitive, but it’s so rewarding when you get them and you’ve got a good program that you think is viable and important,” Walker said.

It’s also how she came to work with San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth, an organization that works to prevent or reduce the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs by the youth in the cities of Del Mar, Encinitas, Solana Beach and surrounding communities. Walker has worked with the organization as a grant writer, advocate and volunteer.

She was one of the people who successfully lobbied the Del Mar Fairgrounds board of directors to make the annual San Diego County Fair a smoke-free event a few years ago.

More recently, she was among the people who encouraged the Solana Beach City Council in December to prohibit medical marijuana cultivation, deliveries and dispensaries in the city.

“We went around and spoke at city council meetings,” Walked explained. “I was especially active here in Solana Beach because we’re just a small, beautiful community. I didn’t want to see dispensaries on the streets in Solana Beach. I don’t want to see dispensaries on the streets in Del Mar. We don’t need it.”

Walker also works with Health Advocates Rejecting Marijuana, or HARM, a coalition of prevention leaders, law enforcement and community members to help coordinate, support, develop and implement marijuana prevention strategies in San Diego County, as well as Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana, or CALM, an all-volunteer political action committee dedicated to defeating any effort to legalize marijuana.

Additionally, she attends meetings of the county’s Tobacco Control Coalition, which aims to improve and protect the health of San Diegans by promoting tobacco-free lifestyles and environments.

“This is such a beautiful place to live; it’s such a beautiful community,” said Walker, who has five grandchildren. “I want it to stay the same for my children and grandchildren.”