San Bernardino County 3rd District Supervisor Dawn Rowe is a Southern California native, born and raised in the Los Angeles harbor area, who eventually moved to the Inland Empire, married Marine Corps. Capt. Alan Rowe and decided to run for public office.
Talking to the Highland Rotary Club on Monday, July 29, Rowe said she got into county politics after experiencing major problems trying to develop real estate.
"Every time I turned around, I had to get the checkbook out and write money for rules that didn't make any sense to me, that nobody behind the counter in land use [department] could explain to me, and I just thought it was ridiculous," said Rowe. "I had always taught my kids, 'Don't complain; Be part of the solution or be part of the change you want to see.' I went to the mayor and he said, 'Why don't you become my appointed planning commissioner?'"
Rowe took him up on that, learning which land use rules were from the state and which were local. She found more local restrictions than the mayor realized, which led her to seek election to Yucca Valley city council alongside Chad Mayes.
Appointed to take over for now-State Assemblyman James Ramos, Rowe says she's tried to work as if she were elected to the post.
Rowe also attends many events throughout the district, shaking hands with people and interfacing between county government and constituents.
Rowe says that even seven months in there's a lot of learning left for her to do.
"We're in the learning process, we're in fact-finding, we like interesting new things that we don't know about. Sometimes when you ask questions and answers I don't know, we're eager to find out some of them with you. I'm happy to take any questions."
Rowe defines the role of government as doing that for the people which they cannot do by themselves.
"I can't fight a fire, I can't pave my own road and I can't chase bad guys. So I would have police and fire and public works as primary departments for me in a government layer. So whether that's a city, the county or anything, that's how I define what government should do."
Part of her job has been to educate the public as to what she does.
"In addition to… being a supervisor and governing the county, we have other agencies that we sit on and represent as board members."
Rowe's responsibilities include seats on the local area formation commission, such as Lavco, and the San Bernardino International Airport Authority and Omnitrans, as well as representing Victor Valley Transit Authority, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
She also pointed out what communities need in order to be a city, as communities seek to maintain autonomy.
"In order to be a city… You have to have a minimum of 10,000 people, you have to show your source of income can sustain your residents through vehicle license fees, sales tax and property tax. Then they'll say, 'Do you have your own water?' as well as sewer, police, fire and public works service.
To serve her district of over 500,000 people, spread from Grand Terrace and Loma Linda all the way up to Barstow, Rowe has put a lot of miles on her car. Its an effort to meet with her constituents wherever they may be.
It's been 15 years since her husband was killed in action in Iraq. But since then she has raised their two children who are both in college.
Rowe lives in Yucca Valley.