Editor's Note: Elk Grove Patch is interviewing candidates running for local office in the 2012 elections. Watch the site for more 'Meet the Candidates' stories.
Asked to describe his personality in three words, Elk Grove mayoral candidate Greg Higley chose listener, mediator and libertarian. We might add ‘optimist.’ When Higley—who owns —decided that recruiting a major university would be the best way to boost Elk Grove’s economy, he got on the phone and started cold-calling Ivy League schools. Though he’s never held public office before, Higley is convinced he can do a better job than Elk Grove’s current City Council members at resolving seemingly intractable issues like . Patch sat down with the registered Republican and Rotary Club member to talk about his vision for Elk Grove and why he thinks he should be the city's first directly-elected mayor.
Tell me about your background.
I’ve run the UPS store for eight years. I’m the president of a cooperative that coordinates advertising and community service for 72 UPS stores in the Sacramento/Stockton/Modesto area. I was a long-haul truck driver for 10 years and a district supervisor at McDonald’s and Wendy’s. I’ve lived in Elk Grove since 1997, in the Sheldon area.
What do you think about being planned for Sheldon?
The is apparently a big issue. I do support monument signs as long as they are aesthetically correct and the planning department sets it up so they look uniform throughout the city. They are critical for business to bring tax dollars into the community, especially when you have so many tourists drive through on Highway 99 and I-5 that would want to do business here.
What would you like to accomplish as mayor?
Bringing in a brick-and-mortar university to Elk Grove will dramatically improve everything in the city. If you drive around to cities like Davis, Santa Barbara, they’re all doing pretty well. Residential and business development will grow exponentially. Some people at the city want to invest a lot of money in order to bring a sports complex here whereas with a university they bring a lot of their own money.
The mall’s something I want to get onto as quickly as possible. Right now we have too much money going to Roseville and Arden Fair. That money needs to stay here. If anchor stores are the holdup, I will call Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s and find out what we need to do to get this mall going.
I want to work on Old Town Elk Grove and build that up. I’d like to keep the Old Town idea with the historic structures but also bring in arts and culture so it’s a place for families to go seven days a week, make it an attraction.
Let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. Current City Council members and community members have been working on the issues you mentioned—the mall, Old Town—for a while, and haven’t made much progress. They’re tough issues. What makes you think you can solve them?
Because it’s easy for me to work with CEOs of major corporations. [Gives an example of a deal he says he helped negotiate between UPS and a major packaging supplier, Uline.] Growing up as a native Californian I’ve watched several cities like Elk Grove grow up and become successful.
I don’t feel the current city council members have the business skills to take us to the next level. We spend an awful lot of money on consultants and specialists to help the city grow. We could use people within our city government as opposed to people from outside.
What’s an example of work the city currently contracts out that you think should be brought in house?
That that was designed by an outside agency. It should be built and designed by people here, not farmed out to some major corporation. A team of interns would love to jump on that project given the opportunity. There’s 53 percent of college graduates who can’t get jobs now. If I took some of them that majored in building design and construction and brought them into the city of Elk Grove as interns…10, 20 years down the road, they’re going to be able to say, ‘I built that. I was part of that.’
You ran for City Council in 2008 and lost to Steve Detrick. Why not just run for council again?
I’m in Steve Detrick’s district and I want to keep Steve Detrick on the City Council. Mayor was the only other position I could run for.
I love Elk Grove—I live here, work here, and I feel I can contribute a lot to the community. I enjoy meeting the people here. [Points to a group of middle-aged men shooting the breeze at a table nearby.] See that discussion that they’re having? I love being a fly on the wall in a group like that, listening to what they have to say.
What do you think of your opponents, [current Councilmember] and ?
I think Jerry Braxmeyer cares but I would really like to see more about what he wants to bring to the table.
Gary Davis is very much into volunteering and giving back to the community. Those are good things. A lot of things I’ve seen him vote for in the past I don’t agree on.
The East Stockton Blvd soundwall [that council members voted to spend city money to replace, saying it was an eyesore]. We have city codes on the books that say a wall should be rebuilt by the property owners, not the taxpayers. We should have had code enforcement take care of that project instead of us spending $1.4 million on the wall.
What are your weaknesses?
I’ve got plenty of those. Some might say one of my weaknesses is I’m an agnostic. I don’t go to church. Others have a right to their beliefs, but it’s not me.
I’m an older guy. I’m not young anymore.
Any hobbies besides Rotary?
I love riding my motorcycle. I’ve never joined a club because I like to ride on my own in the country, where I can enjoy the fresh air and hop off and play in the river.
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