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Trying Things that are a Little Bit Scary, with Mayor Rebecca Jones

Rebecca-jones

Here’s more proof positive that all politics are local.  For this week’s Fireside Chat, our Xperts, Megan Bergsma and Dr. Bill Cardoso welcome the honorable Rebecca Jones, Mayor of (our fair city) San Marcos, CA.

Mayor Jones shares about the many initiatives the city of San Marcos has undertaken over the years to transform the community from its roots in agriculture, to the vibrant community it is today.  The result, as Dr. Cardoso can attest to, is a great place to locate a growing business.  The city offers a supportive environment for entrepreneurship, as well as a highly educated workforce and diverse and welcoming housing.

In a time when political figures can be divisive, this conversation with Mayor Jones is refreshingly positive.  Her advice to young people, “Try things that are a little bit scary for you.” Enjoy the conversation for some insight into the positive impacts of local government, and why San Marcos, CA is such a great place to live and work.   We welcome any questions you may have about what it’s like building a business here.

 

Transcript:

Megan Bergsma:
Welcome to another Fireside Chat. I’m your guest host, Megan Bergsma and we have our CEO, Dr. Bill Cardoso with us today. And for this Fireside Chat, we have a special guest speaker, the Mayor of San Marcos, Rebecca Jones. Thanks for joining us today, Mayor Jones.

Rebecca Jones:
Well, thank you. It’s my pleasure.

Megan Bergsma:
Yeah. So being a San Marcos manufacturing company here at Creative Electron, we will be covering all things related to the city San Marcos and in the areas of manufacturing, education, and technology. So, Bill, do you want to start off with the first question for Mayor Jones?

Bill Cardoso:
Yeah. I mean, there’s so many questions. Thanks for being here, Rebecca. It’s always good to chat with you.

Bill Cardoso:
There’s so much happening in the city of San Marcos, right? Exciting place, which is one of the reasons why we’re here. Can you give us a rundown of everything that’s happening from Block C to the new hospital and all the cool new things you were bringing to San Marcos? Tesla chargers, right? All the cool stuff?

Rebecca Jones:
Yes. There’s definitely a lot going on in San Marcos. It’s been such a pleasure to see… I moved here back in 1987. I was just talking about-

Bill Cardoso:
She was in kindergarten, by the way, for the record. Yes.

Rebecca Jones:
Oh, thank you. I was in my 20s, so yes, I’m a little bit older than you.

Rebecca Jones:
Anyway, the evolution of San Marcos has been really remarkable to watch. And when you look back in the 80s, what San Marcos was known for, it started out as a chicken ranch and then also Hollandia Dairy, so we have dairies and then we also had the chicken ranch.

Rebecca Jones:
In fact, our chicken ranch, the Prohoroff Chicken Ranch, was the largest one this side of the Mississippi. So, we’ve come a long way. That’s all I tell people, we have come a long way. So now we’re home to CSU San Marcos, we have a lot of different, higher learning education right here in San Marcos. We have a lot of talent. So I think one of the reasons that folks like to open businesses in San Marcos is because we do have an educated workforce, which is great.

Rebecca Jones:
We’re also centrally located in North County, and a lot of people love to call San Marcos, home. We’re right about between 95,000 and 100,000 people now, so we’ve grown quite a bit. We’re still one of the fastest growing cities in the county. And we went from having one of the worst crime rates to now we have our lowest crime rate in our city’s history. So that is definitely something to be proud of, but it certainly has been intentional.

Rebecca Jones:
And so, that’s with good planning and then good leadership, I’m just so excited to actually serve as the first mayor that is a woman elected in our city. We were incorporated in January of 1963. And so, I’m serving as the first woman and the 14th mayor. So we used to have a mayor that was rotating, and now we have a directly elected mayor and I’m the 14th.

Rebecca Jones:
So if you look at what’s going on with San Diego County as a whole, there’s a lot of different things happening. As far as tech companies go, we have Qualcomm, which I think is certainly an attraction to our county as a whole. And to North County, I think it’s attractive because we’re also close to Riverside and then also Orange County.

Rebecca Jones:
Our central location between the coast and then inland, I think really lends to us being in a very attractive city for businesses to locate. And I have to admit, I spent a lot of time promoting our businesses and we’re very intentional. About six years ago, we hired our first economic development person because before, businesses would just come to the city and we would allow them to come. Now, we’re very interested in finding the right businesses to really improve the quality of life of our residents and making sure that we’re well-rounded as a city.

Bill Cardoso:
Yeah. I want to put some data behind what you just said, right? A lot of cities out there claim to be business-friendly, right? And that’s a very easy words to throw around, so let me put some data behind it. The economic development team that the city of San Marcos has reached out to us and a bunch of other local businesses here in San Marcos a few years ago, I think it was 2018, to let us know that the city of California has an incentive tax grant called Cal Competes , I didn’t know about it, right?

Bill Cardoso:
So they said, “You know what? You’re doing work in California, we manufacture in California, you can apply for this tax credit”, and we did. And we did with the help of the city of San Marcos, right? Filling out the forms, connecting us with government officials who gave us letters of recommendation of how impactful our manufacturing is to the local economy. And because of that, we’re able to get the grant. So this is I think a very good example of how impactful a business-oriented city can be to help small businesses and medium and large business foster their manufacturing development here in San Marcos, right?

Rebecca Jones:
Well, definitely. And in the last 10 years, we have raised our GDP to almost $8 billion and that’s a 25% increase from 10 years ago. So you just look at that, but let me even go one step further. So when the pandemic hit, we had such good leadership prior to the COVID hitting last year. And so, we were able to take $3 million very early on. We were actually the first city in the entire county, which by the way, there are 18 cities plus the county, so out of 19 agencies, the city of San Marcos was the first to launch a business sustainability program, which included small business loans up to $50,000 for small businesses.

Rebecca Jones:
So that $3 million was exhausted quite quickly, but we were able to bridge the gap for many of our businesses that could no longer stay in business, have their doors open because of government standing in the way of that. So we were the government agency that helped bridge that gap, that in now with our ARPA funds, we were able to grant all of those funds. So, no payback on them, they’re now just a grant from the federal dollars. We are super proud of that. The other thing that we did, I’m not exaggerating when I say this and a lot of people say, “Wow, I never knew that mayors do that.”

Bill Cardoso:
That can’t be true.

Rebecca Jones:
Well, most mayors don’t, but as our governor had said that many of our businesses that needed to be outside that could actually open their businesses back up to be outside for outside operations, as soon as he said it on the television, I literally, and it was live, I literally pause, I got on the phone to our economic development director and I said, “Okay, what do we need to do? What can I do to start moving forward?” Because we had a lot of foresight in planning, again, I go back to planning because that’s very, very important part of leadership. And that is, that we actually had already put forth the plans that when, if there was an option for outside operations, we would be ready and our businesses can move right away.

Rebecca Jones:
So we didn’t even require them to get an approval from us. We said, “Start getting the plans. Start moving forward because we know that’s going to be a process that will take a few days, but we want you to actually move out and start doing it right now.” And we were the first city to do that as well.

Bill Cardoso:
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. I don’t want to monopolize conversation, Megan. I know you had a list of questions and things you want to talk to Rebecca.

Megan Bergsma:
Yeah. I would love to go into a more general question, Mayor Jones. Being you mentioned that you were the first elected woman mayor and I want to know, what are you most excited for for women in politics and leadership? Is it changing? With all the things that are happening, with, like, #MeToo movements and moving into a more positive direction, what are you most excited for?

Rebecca Jones:
One of the things that I always, when I speak to younger women and I talk about what’s really important as far as growing in your careers and all of that, I tell them one thing that was always important to me was always to be a nice girl. And what I mean by a nice girl is to build up other women because it’s vital for us in our success for that to happen.

Rebecca Jones:
And I tell women and no offense, Bill, don’t be offended here, but there’s something a little different than a man giving you a compliment and encouraging you than if a woman does. And I think that nurturing way that women do that is really important to keep us all growing and moving forward. And so that’s a very important part of it. And I think celebrating other women in leadership and finding out what they do that maybe you can take away, that would be something that could help you grow as a leader is really important.

Rebecca Jones:
I can certainly tell you that I never ever saw myself as being a mayor of a city, but I absolutely love it. And because I was a middle child, I’ll just give you a little hint as to why I think that is, I was a middle child and so I always wanted to be a peacemaker, and that is a very important part of leadership as well. I think making sure that you are creating unity and not creating division. And I think more now than ever, during a pandemic, that has become very important. And you can see the leaders from afar that are divisive and they’re not trying to bring people together. We’re never going to move forward if we are doing that, we will stay stuck.

Rebecca Jones:
And so, I say, let’s not talk about political parties. Let’s talk about people because that’s what our job is. And if we forget that we are here to serve the people that we are elected to serve, well then, we should never even be doing that job. And so, I always, always remember, “Why I’m doing the job? Who I’m serving? And then, who can I encourage to be the next generation of leaders?” Because that’s a very important part of leadership as well. If you’re going to work hard, you certainly need to have someone behind you that is going to pick up the reins. And then also, go move forward with your efforts because you certainly don’t want to just have everything be for nothing and have it all fall apart. That’s not being a good leader. It’s always looking to the future, but also bringing other people along. And one other thing that I think is extremely important is that looking back at who came before you.

Rebecca Jones:
When I first thought about public service, there was two council members at the time that were encouraging me. One was Peter Harris Siebert , and then one was Helen Martin 00:12:10, a man and a woman. One was a Republican. One was a Democrat. And I can certainly tell you that there were things from both of their leadership style that I took forward with me that I thought were very important. And again, moving forward, you need to always be looking back to see where you came from. And then also looking forward to see where you’re going and bringing other people along with you.

Bill Cardoso:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Megan Bergsma:
You touched on really great notes and you actually answered one of my other questions of, like, advice for the next generation. So, thank you for that. Thank you for the advice, for this recording. I also want to just jump onto a next question too, and relating it back to leadership in the city and kind of promoting San Marcos, why would San Marcos be the ideal location for a tech hub, for education hub? We have this great potential here also being a manufacturer here in San Marcos, but we also are right across five minutes away from Cal State San Marcos, there’s Palomar across the way, what makes this city so great in that capacity?

Rebecca Jones:
Well, I touched a little bit on the talent pool, which is very important, definitely. And then I think another part of it too, is having a good quality of life because you certainly don’t want all of your employees to have to drive two hours or an hour and a half to get to housing because they’ve got to live somewhere, right? And so I think one of the most beautiful things about our city is the diversity in the housing options that we have.

Rebecca Jones:
This morning, I was at a groundbreaking for an affordable housing project and yes, very excited. So we’re one of the few cities that has 7.22% of our total housing stock is deed-restricted affordable. So we’ve got all types of housing for all types of talent, because not everyone is going to be in the highest paid jobs. You have a diversity as far as where your employees are going to be paid. And so, there’s a little something for everyone.

Rebecca Jones:
I also believe that our location is ideal because we are right there smack dab in the middle of North County, which a lot of people don’t know about North County, I think it’s one of the best kept secrets of our county. But a few years ago, San Diego Regional EDC had come up with this little phrase, I love it, and it’s “The upside of San Diego”. That’s North County, the upside of San Diego.

Megan Bergsma:
Nice.

Bill Cardoso:
I like that. The upside of San Diego. I like that.

Rebecca Jones:
Yeah. We’ve got this great temperature. We’ve got this beautiful climate all the time. We have a nice breeze coming through and it’s often you think, “Oh, it’s going to be much hotter in San Marcos.” Well, it’s really not. And we’re about 12 miles from the coast as the crow flies.

Rebecca Jones:
So I think it’s an ideal location for all of those reasons. But also one of the things that I tell people all the time that I just love about our city is we have a small town feel, even though we are a little bit of a bigger city. We’re not a 30,000 residents kind of population, we have almost 100,000 people. But you can often go into the grocery store and I have to admit, I love this part of my job, you walk in and people were like, “Hey, how are you Rebecca?” Sometimes they call me mayor, but you know, I’m out in the community all the time and it’s a little less during COVID, people are looking at you, “Are you, are you Rebecca?” Even people don’t know.

Rebecca Jones:
Yes. So anyway, I love that part of our small town feel. And I think it’s really important to always maintain that. And so I really, really worked hard to make sure that people feel I’m very easily accessible. People can call me. They can bump into me at the store. Now we have Tesla chargers at Creekside Marketplace. They can bump into me at the Tesla charger because I am the one who coming in, I’m just on two wheels, not technically.

Rebecca Jones:
… sometimes I forgot to plug in, so now that we have the Tesla charger sets… But anyway, I think one of our things that is really special about the city and it’s also our people, but it’s also the spirit of service and how everyone will lend a hand and come together during tough times, during wonderful times, really just always there to lend a hand and volunteer and serve our city. I love that about our city. I call it the spirit of service.

Bill Cardoso:
The spirit of service. Yeah. Yeah.

Megan Bergsma:
True. All nice little catchphrases.

Bill Cardoso:
And you practice the seventh leadership that a lot of great leaders practice on a daily basis, which is leadership to serve others, right? And that’s the best way to do it?

Rebecca Jones:
I do.

Bill Cardoso:
And as a company, we’ve been here now for 13 years, Rebecca. Can you believe that? It’s just like it was yesterday.

Rebecca Jones:
Yeah. It’s been a long time. I think I met you, gosh it was back in 2010? Maybe 2009?

Bill Cardoso:
I think 2009. Yeah.

Rebecca Jones:
And I like to be out with our businesses. I love talking to them. I love finding out how we can better serve them. Back to point about the Cal Competes Grants, we’ve been very intentional about that. Trying to figure out what we can do to help grow our businesses. And I love hearing when they’re buying new properties and expanding because we certainly want them here. And so, we spend a lot of time and effort in our economic development department now with hiring tests and starting that department from scratch essentially.

Bill Cardoso:
Oh yeah, that’s visionary. Yeah.

Rebecca Jones:
Yeah. I think it’s been very important. It’s been a game changer for us.

Bill Cardoso:
Yeah. When you talk about expanding, right? The first time we moved was from San Marcos, into San Marcos for a bigger building, 2010? End of 2010. And then, we outgrew the building. And I had a choice at the time, either to keep on growing in San Marcos or outsource to Asia or other countries to make cabinets, because we make big X-ray cabinets. And we decided to stay here and to keep growing within San Marcos, and we have a next step of getting another building now to keep growing in San Marcos. Because of all those things you say, it’s a great place. People love living here and commuting to work here. We have a really good ecosystem that I very much appreciate and great leadership, which I appreciate as well, so thanks.

Rebecca Jones:
Well, thank you. I think having that brand also made in the USA is important because I think that really instills confidence in people’s minds. This is American made. It was made by our people and we want the best for our people, right?

Bill Cardoso:
Exactly.

Rebecca Jones:
I’m never going to give up on that. I always want the best for people. And that sense of community, I think it brings a sense of community to our country-

Bill Cardoso:
Yes.

Rebecca Jones:
… when we’re purchasing things that are made here and we’re helping employ people in the United States. And that we’re also moving our economy around because that’s very, very important to remember for folks.

Bill Cardoso:
Yeah. And those are the small but impactful decisions we have to make on a daily basis on how we’re going to grow or businesses and where are we going to grow a business. Those things matter a lot. And I think going back to what Megan was saying about these new generations in a new perception of who we are as a country and who we are as society, people are getting them more, right? In where they want to be part and they want to buy products that are part from companies that get that giving back to their local communities make sense, right? Employing local people make sense, and being responsible makes sense.

Rebecca Jones:
Absolutely. You have these large companies that started right here in the city that are doing that and I’m just going to use Stone Brewing as an example because they started right here in the garage of Steve Wagner. And that is very remarkable, what they’ve been able to do. They left, and I was very sad to see them go. It was prior to my being on the council because-

Bill Cardoso:
They wouldn’t have left.

Rebecca Jones:
I wouldn’t want them go. I would cry until they said, “Okay, I just want you to stop crying.” I’m so excited because I actually came back for their brand new distribution center. And there are a lot of stories like this, people in businesses like to stay here and they like to be moving forward and investing in the community. And I even had, during the pandemic, I met with Hughes Circuit boards. They’re right here in San Marcos. Some people don’t even know they here. They are playing a vital role in our defense of our country and again, made in the USA, so you can trust it.

Rebecca Jones:
I think that is something that when you purchase something and it’s made in America, you can trust it in a way that you can’t, something that’s possibly made in China or Europe and all that. I think it just brings confidence and again, there is that all the other parts of it, of employing your neighbors and moving our economy forward, which is extremely important. But I think that part of confidence is really something that we need to talk about more. I think we don’t talk about it enough.

Bill Cardoso:
No, it’s a good point. It’s a very good point. I know we’re wrapping up soon, Megan, but one question I love to ask is, well, specifically for you, you know, I have three young kids, Leo was 12, Eddy’s going to be 10 soon, but I have a little girl, Chloe, who’s five, who is very prone to leadership, little girl. And I’m going to show her this video here when we’re ready, but what recommendation, what thoughts do you have for a five-year-old girl who has the whole world in front of her as the mayor of one of the top cities in the upside of San Diego?

Rebecca Jones:
The upside of San Diego and one of the safest in the county. You know what, let me just share a little story with you. A few years ago, prior to my being elected as mayor, I was going to the grand opening of the Richmar Park and I was walking up and I’ve been an advisory board member for the boys and girls club for many years and a supporter. I’ve always wanted to support the club because I think that’s really important again, back to the kids in the community. And so I spend my hard-earned money supporting the club because I find that to be very important.

Rebecca Jones:
Anyway, I walked up, I saw a couple of the dance team and it was all girls. And they were like, “Oh, are you the mayor?” And I said, “Oh gosh, no, I wish that I was the mayor. I’m running to be the mayor. And next year is the election.” And they said, “Oh”, and I said, “Well, I am the vice mayor.” They were like, “How did you get involved?” And you know, like everyone it’s for the love of the community. I think that’s where it really starts. And then there was a fire and I went, “Okay, maybe I could actually be on the city council”, when I had those two council members encouraging me, I thought maybe I could do that. They said, “Try things”. And mind you, I used to be terrified of public speaking, terrified. I would start sweating. I would think it’s not even possible I’ll ever get over it. But guess what, my first thing that I spoke at when I was elected as mayor, I had 700 people there. Yeah. So 700 people, it was a real estate program that I spoke at.

Rebecca Jones:
And I know a lot about housing. I love housing because it’s places that people make memories, right?

Bill Cardoso:
Exactly.

Rebecca Jones:
And live their lives and grow in community, and all that. So anyway, I told these young girls that day, I said, I tell this to every young person that I speak to, “Try things that are a little bit scary for you.” Maybe you don’t think that you can do them, but if, you know, nothing unsafe, of course, but try things that are really out of your comfort zone, because that will help you grow. And as you grow, you’ll know what you want to do and find something that you’re passionate about. Because if you’re passionate, there is literally nothing that can stop you because you can do a lot with just your mind. There are things that physically, you might not think you could do because maybe you have physical limitations, but I can tell you almost everything in life is 90% mental.

Rebecca Jones:
And so, those physical disabilities won’t hold you back as much as if you are putting forward the effort and really focusing on something because you love it. And so, I tell every young person that I speak to, “Try things that are out of your comfort zone. It’s okay if you get a little bit sweaty and it’s uncomfortable the first time. Each time, it gets easier.”

Rebecca Jones:
So again, the 700 people, and I remember the first time I was on the news too. KUSI had wanted me on, and I was like, “No. How do I not do this? How do I not do this?” And they showed up and they were at my state of the city the first time. And I thought, “Oh, it’s on. I can’t stop it.”

Bill Cardoso:
Nowhere to go.

Rebecca Jones:
I know, but you know what? Now, I’m on all the time. And it just becomes easy to do after time. And you know what? It’s okay if you flub, people like real, right? They liked authenticity.

Bill Cardoso:
Authenticity. Yes.

Rebecca Jones:
And those things you can’t fake, you can’t fake if you’re not authentic. When you’re passionate about something, there really is nothing stopping you.

Bill Cardoso:
That’s it. Thanks so much.

Rebecca Jones:
No, I’m kidding.

Bill Cardoso:
Oh well, that was my last question.

Rebecca Jones:
I am definitely going to stay put for at least one more term. Hopefully, if the citizens of San Marcos elect me again, I’d love to serve another term. And we didn’t even talk about this, to get the hospital done. I really, really wouldn’t want to see the Kaiser Permanente hospital open up.

Bill Cardoso:
Yeah.

Rebecca Jones:
During my first year, I don’t even know if you know this, on my one year anniversary of being mayor, we broke ground on the largest capital improvement project in our city’s history, $106 million and our annual budget’s only about $80 million, so that gives you an idea that it’s a pretty big deal.

Bill Cardoso:
It’s a huge deal.

Rebecca Jones:
And we’ve been working on that for decades, over a decade that I was on the council. Then, other thing we did on my two year anniversary, it’s actually one day shy, and that was break ground on the Kaiser Permanente hospital, which has been 30 years in the making. So for me to see those things get done, I really would like to see that happen. And then we’ll see, I do have a heart for service, and I do love what I’m doing. And I think I can be good at it because I’m very, very good at listening. And then also making sure that everyone is served to the best of my possible ability.

Bill Cardoso:
Well, if you’re going to be mayor for the next 80 years, what are you going to do in these other anniversaries, Rebecca? You’re setting a pretty high standard for the first second term.

Rebecca Jones:
Well, I know.

Megan Bergsma:
This is your pitch campaign. You can do it right now. Do it here.

Rebecca Jones:
Yeah, I have a lot of plans for sure. And definitely, we are not called San Marcos for nothing. And during my time on the council, we’ve opened or expanded or rebuilt 10 new parks. 10. So, I definitely want to continue that. During the pandemic, I think it was more important than ever for folks to get out.

Bill Cardoso:
Oh yeah, it’s huge.

Rebecca Jones:
And I always encouraged it during the whole pandemic and I said, “It’s okay, socially distance, but get out and get active because it’s very good for our mental health.” And I think that’s an important part of the pandemic that really has been kind of ignored by some and we really need to get people out and make sure that they’re feeling good because when they’re feeling good, we’re nicer, we’re more productive and just everything falls into place. And we’re nicer to the people that love us too. So, I like that.

Bill Cardoso:
Awesome.

Megan Bergsma:
Yeah. I think this is a good, good ending for today. Thank you so much, Mayor Jones for joining us for a Fireside Chat, your insights and just promoting the city of San Marcos. But I’m looking forward to the future and what you have plans for the city. All right?

Bill Cardoso:
And you got our votes for the many re-elections.

Rebecca Jones:
Thank you.

Bill Cardoso:
And hopefully, president coming on soon, right?

Rebecca Jones:
Oh, I don’t think so.

Bill Cardoso:
Well, remember, push yourself, right?

Rebecca Jones:
I’m all about the unity and everyone doing well, so it is important to me.

Bill Cardoso:
Thanks so much, Rebecca.

Rebecca Jones:
Thank you.

Megan Bergsma:
Thank you.

Bill Cardoso:
Bye-bye.

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