Pausing during an exclusive interview with the La Jolla Village News, Lightner relayed a message to her constituents.
“I haven’t really thanked people for giving me this job,” she said. “It’s been an amazing growth experience for me. With what I’ve learned — and the people I’ve worked for — we’re going to get a lot done in the next four years.”
After a hard-fought campaign against opponent Ray Ellis, Lighter prevailed 55 percent — 31,264 votes — to Ellis’ 45 percent and 25,706 votes.
“I ran a fact-based campaign — and I won,” proclaimed Lightner on election night at Golden Hall.
Concerning that long road to the Nov. 6 election, Lightner reflected on the candidates’ stamina.
“It’s kind of awe-inspiring to know how many times the mayoral candidates debated (20-plus), and how many times we (District 1 candidates) debated, compared to how much the presidential candidates debated (three times),” she said.
Pressed on what she likes most about being a councilmember, Lightner quipped, “I know where I can park every day,” then added, “serving my community — doing things that actually make a difference.”
Lightner said there will be a great deal of continuity carrying over into her second term.
“We will be continuing, of course, the constituent services, the fiscal reform at the city, bringing more and more public services back online,” she said. “We’ve started repaving streets. We’ve repaved more streets in the last two years than in the prior eight years combined.”
One subject near and dear to Lightner is water: both conserving it and reusing it. She cited reutilization of grey water — wastewater generated from domestic uses — as an example of an untapped resource.
Pointing out grey water can be reused for irrigation, something a lot of other cities have successfully done, Lightner said, “There’s some talk that it could be done similar to the stormwater program, where they have created incentives for folks. You simplify [the reuse of it], provide rebate programs, make it part of our sustainable building policy.”
Lightner said grey water could be mandated for new construction for single-family homes so the system would be “good to go when you move in.”
“It’s showers, baths and laundry, not kitchen or bathroom sinks,” she added.
Pointing out up to 55 percent of San Diegans’ water is used outside, the councilwoman said that by recovering even a portion of grey water for reuse, “You’ve done a lot.”
“We want to be in a situation where we don’t rely on Metropolitan Water District for our water,” Lighner said, emphasizing the importance of looking at the long-term picture. “Sooner is better. To just be in control of our water destiny is huge because it’s everything for us here.”
Another subject of paramount importance to Lightner is economic development. More specifically, plotting a strategy for it moving forward.
“The city should take a more active role in planning the economic development for this region,” she said. “We are the big dog in the area. We need to take the lead. We need to be willing to step up and do the most we can for this region.”
The most fun thing for her right now, she said, is chairing the city’s Economic Strategies Committee.
“It’s something I advocated,” she said. “We’ve spent a year doing a new economic development strategy for the city. It’s what we want to achieve and how we see the future … improving manufacturing … taking advantage of all our tech sectors including blue (aqua) tech … and taking advantage of the (Mexican) border.”
Getting Torrey Pines Road Corridor “resurrected again” has been one of the major projects of her first term, and it most definitely will carry over into her second, said Lightner.
“That needs money, but we’re making progress on it,” she said. “Clean up is being done on the north side of Torrey Pines Road, getting fencing fixed up, modest improvements with the million dollars we have and getting the plan done for the Phase 4 portion (TP Road from Little Street to LJ Shores Drive).”
A grass-roots politician who worked her way up through the community planning group process, Lightner gave a nod to her constituents for their knowledge and expertise.
“I’m very fortunate to represent a lot of very smart, engaged people,” she said. “They have some very amazing, wonderful ideas I’m delighted to follow up on. Some of it is just putting it in a form we can actually take action on.”
Asked whether she is encouraged about the future, Lightner said, “I’m always encouraged about the future. That’s the whole reason I’m doing what I’m doing.”
Will San Diegans be better off in the future?
“If we work on it, we will be,” Lightner said. “We just need to keep working. You can’t leave it to chance.”