Community Commentary

My final interview with Maggie Houlihan

Last May I was privileged when publisher Jim Kydd asked me to interview Encinitas councilwoman, and former mayor, Maggie Houlihan for an article that was to be published the day before her Celebration of Life. That experience led to yet another honor when Maggie asked me to serve as her oral historian three weeks prior to her death on Sept. 16.
Because of her rapidly deteriorating health, we knew we needed to work fast. We worked throughout the subsequent week as she felt up to it. On Friday night, Sept. 9 she said, “This is it. We need to get it done.”
When I arrived the next morning, we both knew it was her final interview.
I shared the contents of that interview at a special council meeting Sept. 26 when I presented a video I taped of Maggie endorsing Lisa Shaffer.
I am sharing it again here:
What is your proudest achievement?
1. Twenty-seven years serving students at UCSD.
2. Serving the city of Encinitas as a councilmember.
3. Building a rich life based on friends, family and living here in Encinitas…a very charmed life. “Encinitas: Where reality meets magic,” like Ida Lou Coley (historian) would say.
4. Co-founding Spay Neuter Action Project (SNAP), rescuing and fostering animals and working with the community.
5. Helping animals on factory farms.  The pain and suffering humans inflict on each other is only exceeded by the pain and suffering they inflict on animals.
What more would you like to have done to help animals?
1. [Continue to advocate for reforms in] factory farming.
2. Spaying and neutering.
3. Fighting for sea life, through organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation and Coast Keeper, by cleaning the ocean, their habitat. 
 What more would you like to have done for the city?
1. Save the Pacific View Elementary School site as a cultural arts center.
2. Continue to work with the Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association (DEMA) to create a vibrant, cultural economic base to bring visitors.
3. Bring accountability to city hall. We have a new city manager to help us do that.
4. Make sure the Encinitas Garden Festival continues to thrive, as well as the Pet Health Expo and Cardiff Dog Days of Summer.
5. Our dog park legacy is too important to let go. We have the expertise.
6. Skateboard parks are too important to lose sight of. There are thousands and thousands of skateboarders in our community. Everyday skaters and (skateboarding) stars deserve that asset.
7. Encinitas Community Park.
8. Preserving the character of our community that is in our general plan. We need to stick to those tenets. There is a lot of magic in Encinitas.
9. Arts community in Encinitas. Art will promote economic vibrance even better.
How do you want to be remembered?
By what was said at the Celebration of Life in May. That I was a mentor, that I saved animals, that I cared for people, that I made a difference. I shared such a richness of experience with family, friends and residents.
I was chilled last week when news broke that Walmart would be moving into the former site of HomeExpo. There was a lot of buzz in May about the prospect when I interviewed Maggie for The Coast News. I asked for her thoughts.
She looked down, then up and said, “I can’t do it myself.”
The afternoon of Sept. 8 I called first to make sure Maggie was feeling well enough to be interviewed that evening. She greeted me by saying, “Did you hear about my friend, Pam (Slater-Price) She announced that she will not run for re-election?”
She added, in a foreboding tone, “It’s over.”
Then she quickly turned positive.
“I was shocked but not surprised,” she said. “Pam’s my friend and I supported her when she ran, and I support her now. It gives plenty of very truly, ethical, honest leaders a chance to step up and run in her space.”
For me, Maggie was an authentic California girl, a cosmic earth mother, and a free spirit who was true to herself. We were the beneficiaries of her dreams. I can think of no better way to honor Maggie’s life than to do the hard work and continue her legacy.