Brian White vividly recalls attending his first Pacific Beach Town Council (PBTC) public meeting and the nearly electric current generated by the exchange of views and information between community residents and representatives of local government and public agencies. The experience prompted White to join, and the memory is so deeply rooted in him that when White starts his two-year term as president of the PBTC this month, he says his top priority will simply be to keep it going.
"Before I volunteered in the PBTC office (in 2016), for a couple of years prior to that, I'd come to a general meeting every now and then," White said. "And I remember feeling 'wow, we've got this coming together of police, fire, lifeguard and government representatives, all giving updates. It's this hub of information and people sharing their views. I love that. Where else can you get that?' "
White takes over the helm from Greg Daunoras, who notes that since joining the PBTC's board in 2017, White has served as the group's vice president, communications director, webmaster and social media director, and coordinated the speaker's bureau, selecting guest speakers for the group's public meetings.
"I think Brian is probably the best prepared incoming president that I've ever seen at the PB Town Council," Daunoras told PB Monthly.
Launched under Daunoras, the introduction of guest speakers addressing specific topics has become a lightning rod for the PBTC, attracting larger audiences and media attention, while bringing contentious issues such as electric scooters and short-term vacation rentals to the forefront for community input.
"PB is ground-zero for most issues," White said. "If it's happening around the City, we're definitely feeling the brunt end over at the beach. I want to keep bringing key hot-button issues before the community so residents can weigh in on what matters to them. Our general meetings are our best chance of drawing people in. Honestly, these meetings are where I'm placing most of my focus for 2019."
Goals for the New Year
Although he won't tamper with success, White said he hopes to introduce technological enhancements to the audio/visual aspects of the meetings and ultimately, make videos of the full meeting available on the PBTC's website, though he concedes, "exactly how we do that on a non-profit budget will be key."
According to White, such improvements can address one shortcoming he perceives at the PBTC: With more than 46,000 Pacific Beach residents, the group's membership has been hovering around 400 residents and businesses consistently.
White argues that whole segments of the community aren't even aware of the PBTC's existence, let alone what it does, specifically the young adult population. Increasing their participation would not only bolster the PBTC's voice to policymakers, but add nuance to the dialogue.
"There are generational perspectives on some of these issues and we want all sides represented for discussion," White said. "Like with the electric scooter issue, there's definitely a generational aspect. There's strength in numbers when it comes to tipping the scales at City Hall — whether it's dollars or voters — and politicians definitely pay attention to that."
While the goal is a worthy one, Daunoras cautioned that hard realities force many organizations, not just the PBTC, to rely on retired and semi-retired members to do most of the work.
"We'd like to see some younger people involved, but they can't put in 20 hours a month," he said. "When you work full time and you've got two or three kids at the house, you've got to devote all of your time off to the family."
Nonetheless, finding younger members will depend on searching where they congregate and White believes that expanding the PBTC's social media outreach will be critical to the effort. However, he said the biggest opportunity for growth is already halfway achieved when a new face — young or older — enters the door to a meeting and as president he plans to capitalize on it.
"We can talk about social media outreach, we can talk about building up our website, but you can't replace face-to-face interaction," White said. "As we've seen a revolving door of different people coming to our meetings, we're missing an opportunity if they're coming in and out of the meeting without a warm welcome and some face-to-face interaction. People need to feel that warmth. It's like coming to see friends. That kind of thing can be contagious."
The PBTC was founded in 1951 and aside from its monthly meetings, annually hosts a number of prominent community-wide events, such as the summer Concerts on the Green at Kate Sessions Park and the fall PAESAN (Police and Emergency Services Appreciation Night) Picnic.
White said he moved to PB from Fresno in 2006 and gradually became more immersed in the community. In fact, he met his wife Courtney because they lived on the same block and after proposing to her on Crystal Pier last Valentine's Day, got married at Mission Point Park in October. "I could see no better or more fitting place to get married than in the town where we fell in love," he said.
White's commitment to the community is abundant and whether looking forward to his term as PBTC president or the resulting legacy, he hopes that his motivation will always be obvious.
"The president of the PB Town Council is a big responsibility that I take very seriously," he said. "I hope that I'm able to foster more community engagement and enhance our outreach. I know that sounds typical. (But when I'm done), I hope people will be able to see that I love our little beach town and I did my best to serve its interest."
—PBTC general meetings run 6:30-8 p.m. third Wednesdays at Crown Point Junior Music Academy, 4033 Ingraham St. Parking is plentiful and free. To learn about scheduled speakers, visit pbtowncouncil.org
—The 2019 Installation Dinner of officers and board of directors starts 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20 at Mission Bay Yacht Club. The public is welcome. To purchase tickets, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (858) 483-6666.