VISTA — Now that 2017 is over, city officials like Mayor Judy Ritter are reflecting on the work they accomplished. In her eighth year as a mayor, and serving her 20th year on the Vista City Council, Ritter recognizes the team effort that has improved the city.
Part of that team is also community involvement, particularly during City Council meetings.
“I’m happy that they (Vistans) are there, and I want to hear what they think because it’s their city,” Ritter said.
Even if the community isn’t in full agreement on an issue, listening to what they have to say means everything, she said. For Ritter, it’s all about balance.
“You just have to look at what’s best for the city and understand people’s needs — you have to prioritize and decide what’s the most important thing,” she said. “What does the city need?”
For example, traffic is a big priority. Ritter said that in 2017, the city invested $8 million in traffic and infrastructure. The city is growing, and the roads must accommodate those numbers.
“This just isn’t in our city. I see it in other cities,” she said, noting her recent trip to Tokyo.
Ritter said that in an effort to improve congestion, the city approved a Traffic Congestion Management Plan, which also includes setting aside $150,000 every year to continue road improvements.
Main roads improvements were completed at Civic Center Drive and Highway 78 as well as the Emerald Drive corridor. At North Melrose and West Vista Way, commuters were provided with lane enhancements.
“Now, we’re concentrating more on a lot of neighborhood (roads),” Ritter said.
Other revitalization efforts include Phase II of Paseo Santa Fe Street Improvements. In addition, downtown amenities have been implemented for a more visitor-friendly experience such as double street lighting. In the past four years, the city invested more than $9 million in park improvements.
In 2017, two new skate parks opened.
“For years, we tried to find places for them (skate parks),” Ritter said. “I’m hoping the kids appreciate them and treat them nicely.”
In 2018, new restaurants were established in Vista. Some opened in 2017 while others will arrive in 2018 such as Raising Cane’s, Swami’s Café and Mikko Sushi. Breweries are also in full swing. According to Ritter, there are 18 breweries in Vista with five more coming down the pipeline.
A Honda Dealership is also in the works with an opening date sometime in 2019.
Even with a growing Vista, crime numbers are at an all-time low.
“Our sheriff’s department is doing a great job,” Ritter said. “Our fire department’s doing a great job.”
In the same breath, Ritter commended the fire department, sheriff’s department and city staff for doing an impeccable job on the front lines and keeping residents safe and informed during the Lilac Fire.
While it’s a sensitive topic among residents, Ritter expressed the need for more affordable housing in Vista. She’s well aware how some Vistans don’t like to hear this, but there is a need, she said. There are individuals whose rely on affordable housing otherwise they will begin to double up at another residence.
“People don’t like that we’re building housing, but the housing is needed — so that’s a challenge,” she said, adding that it’s important to look at the city as a whole. “Sometimes, people don’t agree with this — and for some people who have been here for a long time, they don’t like to see growth. Change is hard.”
Ritter said she likes working with people and loves Vista. Her goal has always been to create a city that her children would call home, so she could be closer to her grandchildren when they started building their families.
“I wanted them (her children) to go to college, come back here and raise their families here,” she said. “I wanted them to be able to get good jobs in Vista and be proud to say they were from Vista. I just wanted to help make Vista a better town for them.”
Ritter’s impetus to serve on the City Council was not only for her own family but for all families.
“So now I have that pride,” she said.
Looking ahead to 2018, the Vista City Council will now operate under a by-district representation. Ritter also hopes that the economy continues to improve and residents will have extra money to spend in Vista.
Ritter is excited about upcoming projects, such as the construction on 100 Main Street.
“I’m just looking forward to a good and successful year in the city and to just continue to build and continue to get better,” Ritter said.