Dave Roberts greets a reporter Wednesday morning at an Encinitas coffee shop with a broad, warm smile.
The smile has become a trademark of sorts. He wore the same smile on Jan. 10, 2012 when the then-Solana Beach City Councilman declared his candidacy for the Third District seat on the County Board of Supervisors.
You can see the same smile on his face in pictures taken on Nov. 6, 2012, when he defeated Steve Danon to win the Dist. 3 Supervisors race, becoming the first Democrat on the five-member board.
He continued to smile even throughout a 2015 that saw some former staffers file claims against the county alleging several abuses of office, which the county settled for $300,000. The claims made him vulnerable to defeat in 2016.
And despite a slow, painful three-week vote count last month that saw Roberts go from apparently clinching a second term in office to being defeated for the Dist. 3 seat by Encinitas Mayor Kristin Gaspar, the first sitting incumbent defeated on the board in 32 years, Roberts has never lost that smile, or the optimism that fuels it.
“I am a very positive person by nature,” Roberts said.
“When you get into the business of running for office you know there are going to be winners and losers,” Roberts said. “This time, I lost by a few votes, but at 56 I have a lot more that I still want to do.”
While he hasn’t officially decided what path he wants to take after his term officially ends next week, Roberts said he is open to running for public office again. He also spoke openly about his dream job of becoming an executive director for a nonprofit organization.
He also wants to continue to champion the causes that he did during his term on the board of supervisors: Environmental and open-space acquisition advocacy, improving the foster care and adoption system, the expansion of mental health services offerings and shedding a light on domestic violence and human trafficking issues in the county.
For now, Roberts said he’s still been doing the work of supervisor until Gaspar is officially sworn into office. He said that he’s done everything to make the transition smooth, including briefing her on the projects he was working on encouraging her to not lose sight of them.
He has also continued to serve his constituents.
One of his last acts included assisting a family in Solana Beach, who had an issue involving their daughter. In a message to Roberts, the family thanked him, saying that he “provided a miracle” for the family.
“I hope my legacy is known for providing good constituent services,” Roberts said. “In this case, the system wasn’t working for one of my constituents, and it took an intervention on our behalf to show the system wasn’t working for them and correct it.
“I think that’s why I got involved with public office. The system was not working for me and I wanted to make sure that the system not only listened to my concerns, but corrected my concerns,” Roberts said.
Roberts said in his four years on the Board of Supervisors, he feels he did play a role in making sure the system listened to all of the voices in the county.
Among the highlights of his term, Roberts said, were saving the Palomar Forensic Health Center from closure, the expansion of trails and the acquisition of 1,500 acres of open space through the county’s Property Acquisition Conservation Easement, or PACE program; a conservation loan program that also went by the acronym PACE — Property Assessed Clean Energy financing — that allowed homeowners to finance energy efficiency improvements on their homes repaid by tax assessments; as well as improvements to the foster care and adoption system and, as mentioned earlier, the expansion of mental health services offerings countywide.
“Through the work of me and my colleagues…you see a board of supervisors that is getting involved with homelessness, getting involved with domestic violence, getting involved with human trafficking,” Roberts said.
Roberts did acknowledge disappointment in the outcome of the Nov. 8 election, but said he will be watching the board closely over the next few years to make sure they don’t reverse course on many of the initiatives that he helped bring about.
“Would I have liked to have served another four years? Yes,” Roberts said. “Will I continue to watch closely what is going on at the board level? Yes. Will I serve in elected office again? That is for the voters to decide.”
He will also be watching — like many observers, he said — to see if developers’ influence on the board grows.
“So much money was spent against me by people downtown that just felt I was too North County-centric and they wanted a representative who represented downtown interests and more favorable to development, and that concerns me,” Roberts said.
Voters, Roberts said, spoke loud and clear throughout the county about their desire to see an end of sprawl development, especially in the back country where voters countywide overwhelmingly defeated an initiative to develop a 1,700-home master planned community near Valley Center.
Roberts said the supervisors would likely be faced early on with several projects that will serve as litmus tests on their stance on development.
“I think that is going to be one of the big issues that people will be watching,” Roberts said.
But for now, Roberts said, the pause between his current position and his next step will allow him to spend time with his family and his adoptive children, five of whom are still in the home and range from ages 4 to 16 — Alex, Julian, Joe, Natalee and Manny.
He showed pictures and videos of the family attending the Garden of Lights at the San Diego Botanic Garden — grinning from ear to ear.
“This is going to give me a chance to spend more time with my family and more time to focus on some of my passions, and I am looking forward to that,” Roberts said.