Q & A / Winter 2011
Dave Romero Takes our Questions
Since he came to town in 1956, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has had such a large impact on San Luis Obispo. And, on nearly every major city issue since then, you can find his fingerprints. He retires in January and leaves some very big shoes to fill. The Mayor takes our questions…
What did you want to be when you grew up?
You know, from the time I was about ten, I wanted to be a civil engineer. Actually, I wanted to be a logging engineer at first, but I couldn’t get into the program at the university back in 1946, so I went to my own state university, the University of New Mexico, and enrolled in their civil engineering program which was a better choice for me. So, I chose something as a child and got to spend my entire working life doing something I wanted and liked.
How did you get the nickname “Dave the Pave”?
It was given to me by a critic who had the perception that I approved every development proposal that came through. I used the name in a different context because “Dave the Pave” was the one who made sure that our streets were paved and that our sidewalks were well-maintained. The nickname became a positive thing for me.
What do we have to do to keep San Luis Obispo at the top of all those “Best Places” lists?
I think what we have been doing for the past 15 years or so has been positive, and has brought us to that point. We need to continue to do what we’ve been doing. The critical problem for us has been the high cost of housing. Hopefully we’ll be able to provide more of it to bring the prices down. To do that we also need to make more jobs available.
What do you think people misunderstand about you?
The main criticism people have made of me over the years was that I was strongly pro-growth, but really I have been strongly pro-city. That is, I have always done what I thought was best for the welfare of the city. There has to be a certain amount of growth or you stagnate.
What single piece of advice would you pass on to the new mayor?
I would advise the new mayor to really work to see that we have a harmonious, operating, team-functioning city council because the way the council relates with itself during the meeting is the perception the public has of how well we operate and is the perception of the city.
What will you miss most and least about being mayor?
Having spent fifty years in the city – friends. I won’t miss long meetings, particularly those with extensive testimony.
Do you have any regrets?
No - I have no regrets. I think that a lot of the life choices that I’ve made, especially in coming here to San Luis Obispo so many years ago have worked out really well. I have no regrets at all in my life. I’m very happy with the way it has all turned out. I am one of the most fortunate men and have had a truly blessed life.
What does the future hold for you?
I’m still going to keep a finger in the city’s operations, not as a voting member but as an ambassador, so I’ll still be a part of my beloved city. Hopefully, my wife and I will have a long travel vacation, which we never did in my time as mayor because I didn’t want to be away that long. We have lots of grandchildren and now great grandchildren coming on, so we’ll have lots of family activities as well.
What’s the one thing you would whisper in the ear of someone just starting their career?
Marry a patient woman… that really affects your life a lot.
Where would you take Mrs. Romero for a special night out?
My wife and I for many, many years have celebrated our anniversary at the Madonna Inn. I always ordered the same thing, a “junior top,” which is a small, local top sirloin steak with a baked potato and salad and all the rest of the stuff that goes with it. It was a special thing that Alex had there and it wasn’t on the menu, but people knew about it.
When you look back on your long career what do you think about?
I think about how far the city has come. When I first came here, in 1956, the city was sort of like any old town USA. The infrastructure really needed improvement. We didn’t have any trees in downtown. We had signs overhanging the streets. Lot of things were run down in the community. We needed road improvements. The traffic situation was poor – it still is in a lot of ways. I really think about how things were, and I think it needed someone who could dedicate a lifetime for a single purpose.
How do you want to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered as being mayor at a time when the city reached a pinnacle of respect, and we were recognized for the efforts that we have had – and it isn’t all my efforts. It started many, many years before me with thoughtful city councils who did a lot of master planning and started things. I would hope to be remembered as Mayor of San Luis Obispo during the very best of times.
Please finish this sentence for us: “The real truth about Dave Romero is…”
… he has an undying love for San Luis Obispo.