Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Engineering alumna, now on San Diego city council, honroed by UCSD Alumni

San Diego City Council President SHERRI LIGHTNER, REVELLE ’72, M.S. ’78, a licensed mechanical engineer turned public official, believes that you sometimes need to break things to make them better. “If you don’t break something, you don’t know if you have an optimized design,” says Lightner. “I’m an engineer. We make things work, we solve problems.”

Seamlessly combining her engineering background with public service, Lightner has also broken barriers. Representing District One, she is the first female engineer to serve on the San Diego City Council, as well as the first female Council President. A leader in civic engagement, Lightner has served on multiple community planning organizations and committees. She was the first official to develop a comprehensive water policy in order to provide San Diego with an affordable and sustainable water supply. She led the effort to establish the Economic Development Committee in 2011, then served as Chair for over 4 years.

Lightner hadn’t always imagined that her career would lead her to City Council and the opportunity to be impactful and affect such profound change. What started with a simple passion for community service—beginning with the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and La Jolla Shores Association—would later evolve into a much grander ambition of addressing the city’s most pressing concerns.

“It was serving in the community that led me to believe that there were better ways that the City could deliver to its citizens, and to actually bring the neighborhoods to City Hall,” says Lightner. As Council President, a position she has held since 2014, her priorities include economic development, expansion of the tech, cybertech and blue tech industries in San Diego, water policy, promotion of STEM education, as well as closing the job skills gap and updating the City’s charter.

Despite everything that is on her plate, Lightner remains tirelessly dedicated to improving her community, a job that she notes cannot be completed without the technical and analytical background skills gained at UC San Diego. She additionally credits her alma mater for contributing to the lasting values that guide her every day, especially the importance of confidence and accountability. “UC San Diego taught you to be fearless,” adds Lightner. “You learned to stand up and account for yourself, and stand up for other folks as well.”

Now in her final year serving on the San Diego City Council, Lightner is focusing on finishing what she started eight years ago. “I want to be known as a council member who truly represented my community,” she says. ”If you don’t ask for something, the answer is always no. That’s why I’m continually asking for what I think our residents and communities deserve.”

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