CHULA VISTA, Calif. – San Diego County Supervisor Greg Cox has spent nearly his entire career in public service.
Much of that time was in Chula Vista, the South Bay community where he was born and where he has lived in the same house with wife, Cheryl, for the past 45 years.
“When you have a chance to grow up in a community, how many people have a chance to be elected to the City Council in their hometown and ultimately to serve as mayor which I was able to do for nine years in Chula Vista?” Cox said.
Cox, who first was elected to the county board in 1995, soon will exit his District 1 seat this year due to term limits. His longtime seat soon will be held by Nora Vargas, the Southwestern College board member who defeated State Senator Ben Hueso in November’s general election.
Vargas will become the first Latina ever to serve on the Board of Supervisors. She is one of three new members of the next iteration of the body including Terra Lawson-Remer — who defeated incumbent Supervisor Kristin Gaspar in District 3 — and Joel Anderson who bested Poway Mayor Steve Vaus to fill the District 2 seat of another term limited supervisor, Dianne Jacob.
Cox will serve his last day in office early next week.
In losing Cox, the five-member board loses a steady presence, one that has become familiar to many in the county this year as a regular voice of COVID-19 news briefings for the past 10 months.
But he also hopes he’ll also be remembered for his body of work prior to the pandemic.
“The Living Coast Discovery Center (of which he is the founder) is something I’m really, really proud of,” he said. “It’s been in operation now for well over 30 years. It’s providing a tremendous resource.”
A graduate of San Diego State University, Cox started his career in the early 1970s as a teacher at Montgomery Junior High School. He was elected to the Chula Vista City Council in 1976 and later served as the city’s mayor until 1990. (His wife, Cheryl Cox, also served the city as mayor from 2006 until 2014.)
After departing the council, he spent several years primarily in the private sector until landing his spot on the Board of Supervisors in the mid 1990s.
The role provided him the opportunity to go to work for National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach and Coronado as well as 19 communities within the city of San Diego, including Barrio Logan and Sunset Cliffs.
“I’ve only been focused on local government and there’s a reason for that,” he said. “I think in local government, you can sink your teeth into some pretty meaty issues and in a reasonable period of time, actually have some accomplishments.”
And he county plenty of accomplishments from his tenure, starting with improvements to the local foster care system. In 1998, there were more than 7,000 children in the system.
Today, there are fewer than 2,400 kids in foster care in San Diego.
“Certainly the San Pasqual Academy is another project I’ve been involved with,” he said. “That has done a tremendously effective job in getting those kids who were having a hard time in the foster care system to not only graduate high school, but to go on to two- and four-year colleges.”
Another passion of his includes the area’s parks and numerous hiking and bicycle trails.
“For well over 30 years, I’ve been working to complete the Bay Shore Bikeway around San Diego Bay,” Cox said. “It’s 24 miles, probably no more than 10 feet in elevation as you ride around the bay.”
He adds, “We’re not quite done with it, but we’re very close.”
Cox said that serving District 1 has been his highest honor, but it’s his family he wants to thank for allowing him the opportunity all these years.
“We got married in 1975 and we were going on our honeymoon and I had to run a basketball tournament as soon as we got back,” he said. “About two days later, I said, ‘Hey, what would you think if I ran for City Council in Chula Vista?’ And (Cheryl) was very supportive. I have to thank her.
“And I have two daughters that are doing great things in their jobs, but more importantly, they also give back to the community.”