Mayors past and present reflect on Truckee life
It was the end of a storm, and like many Friday afternoons, two of Truckee’s councilmen got together to banter about the town – which they’ve seen change quite a bit since incorporation.
“Really, it was the red hot economy,” Mayor Ted Owens said, referring to what he sees as the catalyst of change in this town.
“… Which spurred the development of more houses, the building of more houses,” said council member Ron Florian, who recently passed the mayor badge to Owens during a swearing in ceremony in December.
“Ron was mayor right before the explosion,” Owens said.
In Florian’s six years on town council and two terms as mayor, he’s seen changes, and he’s seen certain things stay the same.
And no matter how much change Truckee has seen in the past years, Florian said certain council issues will not change.
“You still have the roads. You still have the snowplow removal in the winter time,” he said.
Owens and Florian both agreed it’s the static character traits that make people want to move to Truckee and stay.
“The one thing that’s stayed consistent is the community itself and its willingness to help and work together,” Florian said. “When it comes right down to it, it’s still a small town.”
And both have made clear that preserving that small-town feel is essential. But growth has had its effects.
With the building explosion, more second homeowners moving to Truckee full time and Truckee’s draw as both a winter and summer destination, the town’s economy has seen a gradual change visible in the types of businesses that survive today.
“Would Florian’s have survived in 1990?” Owens asked of Florian’s specialty foods store.
“No,” Florian answered.
Owens credits tourism with the economic diversification, and noted that it’s an industry that many small towns in California would love to have.
“[Tourism] is what’s going to help Truckee,” Owens said. “I don’t feel this negative toward our tourist economy.”
Tourism and Truckee’s location, both agreed, have contributed to its success.
“We don’t have to go out and look for businesses to come to our community,” Florian said. “They come to us. And that’s a big plus.”
As for issues that will be important to the town council in the next year, Florian ticked off a few: Workforce housing, historic preservation, downtown parking, preserving the riverfront and redevelopment.
“That’s another huge challenge for the town over time: the creation of light industrial space that’s affordable,” Owens said.
Despite ongoing population growth, Owens and Florian hope they don’t see an alteration in Truckee’s community spirit.
“Buildings in and of themselves don’t change communities. People do,” Owens said.
“There are folks that I have talked to who’ve lived here a year or two that would love to see a Nordstrom’s Rack here,” Owens said.
“The other thing I hear: ‘I came from a metropolitan area and I don’t want to see this place become a metropolitan area, so I don’t want to see it grow at all,'” Florian said.
Both emphasized the importance of community participation and involvement.
“The new arrivals, if they get involved at whatever level, they would see and hear the flavor of the town,” Florian said.
“It’s fun to see people who haven’t experienced a small community who move here and embrace it,” Owens said. “The future lies within the people and we have a great community.”
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