SAN DIEGO — San Diego County will say goodbye this year to a trailblazer on the County Board of Supervisors. After nearly three decades, Dianne Jacob will vacate her seat covering District 2.
Jacob’s rise to leadership and recognition was not something of which she dreamt.
“Some people go into elected office because they want the title,” Jacob told FOX 5. “In my opinion, that’s the wrong reason. You go into elected office because you can do good, you can make a difference for the people.”
But that’s not how Jacob’s career in public service started. Becoming an elected official was not her first dream.
“My horse was my best friend, frankly, and all I wanted to do as a little girl is I wanted to be a cowgirl,” Jacob said.
And before 1992, she was living her dream, with her husband, working a small angus cattle ranch in Deerhorn Valley near Jamul, where she still lives today.
“I raised chickens and turkeys and pigs and had a big garden and I was living the life,” Jacob said.
She also taught sixth grade at Bancroft Elementary School in Spring Valley. But a 10-year legal battle over a large land issue showed her she had a bigger calling.
“I did not have any clue about who a county supervisor was,” Jacob said. “I got involved, actually, with a small group of citizens. We felt what’s going on here is wrong … so we fought the fight, we fought the good fight.”
And she has been fighting the good fight ever since 1992 as supervisor of District 2, which stretches from Poway through El Cajon, La Mesa and Santee and includes the unincorporated East County areas of Alpine, Julian, Ramona and Spring Valley.
“Back in 1993, the county was in a fiscal mess … so the first order of business was fix the finances,” Jacob said.
Once the county was on the road to recovery, she put her eye on public safety. Following the devastating fires of 2003 and 2007, she spearheaded a complete overhaul of the region’s fire protection service.
“Some of what I’m most proud of is the formation of the San Diego County Fire Protection District … it’s a fully operable fire agency at this point, both in the air and on the ground and it’s not just putting out fires but it’s medical emergencies, too,” Jacob said. “So it’s all about saving lives.”
The San Diego State University graduate suffered from extreme shyness as a child due to a cross eye and the last thing she wanted was to be recognized.
“I remember going to school, going to kindergarten and I was teased,” Jacob said. “Oh, it was awful … and that had a huge impact on me. I would go home and I would cry after school and I did not want to stand up in front of the class.”
But it was that experience that led her to champion issues that inspire and empower children of all ages.
“To date, over 130 projects we’ve completed, some of those, the Lakeside ball field, which is one-of-its-kind in Lakeside, and the aquatics center at the McGrath Family YMCA.”
As a lifelong athlete and equestrian, organized sports have been a big part of her plan as well as recreation. To that end, under her nearly three decades of service, she has set aside over 100,000 acres of open space and 400 miles of trails.
“And then the libraries. To date, we’ve built 13 libraries just in the second district,” Jacob said.
Now, she says, it’s time to get back to her golf game and the ranch life she loves. She leaves office with the following words of praise and advice.
“I truly believe that as a result of our efforts that our county government certainly is in a stronger financial position and our communities are better off for it,” Jacob said. “Having said that, though, there are challenges to be faced by the future board, and I wish them the best.”
Jacob said the biggest lesson is that just a few motivated citizens really can make a difference and she says she will still be involved in projects and continue to fight the good fight.