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Local Woman Of The Year Has Touched Many Lives

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Posted: Friday, March 13, 2015 9:57 am

Many know Hazel Bailey in Imperial Beach for her role in the city council and probably stopped by her concession stand at the pier in the 1970s for a snack. Bailey was recently chosen as Woman of the Year and will be recognized at a luncheon on March 13. 

As part of Women’s History Month, the San Diego Women of the Year Project asks community groups to chose candidates who are outstanding women in 10 communities around San Diego. District 78 State Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins reviewed the biographies and chose the winners. The women were picked based on their community involvement. During the luncheon the winners will receive an Assembly Resolution which recognizes their work. Student leaders and young women from the Reality Changers mentorship program for disadvantaged youths will attend and interact with the winners.

Bailey has had a deep commitment to the city of Imperial Beach throughout her life. Although she moved away from Imperial Beach for a number of years she returned and is here to stay. Even when she was away from her hometown she was always involved in the communities she lived in.

Bailey had no idea she was nominated or by whom as Woman of the Year until a representative from Atkins’s office left her a phone message that she won. “I’m well known in IB. I do know a lot of people, not just through the council but the pier, the kids who spent time on the pier, adults who walked the pier for a coffee. I.B. is a wonderful place to live. I’m very honored. I’m extremely honored,” she said. 

Bailey was born in 1945 in National City  at Elwyn Hospital, something she is very proud of. “ A lot of people didn’t know that hospital was there. I started making history right off the bat,” she joked. She attended Southwest High Junior High and Mar Vista High School. When she was in her 30s she went back to school and received an Associate Degree in Arts from Southwestern College. She served in the Navy from 1963 to 1966 and was a supply clerk working at NAS Alameda.

In the 1970s Bailey and her husband Gary owned and operated a concession stand at the end of the pier, a combination snack bar and tackle shop. “It had it all,” she said fondly of those days.

It was during this time that she served as a city councilwoman for the city. She served for four years and was first elected in 1977 during a special election and reelected in 1978. “I talked to everybody, went door to door. I took the most votes in the precinct. I was pretty jazzed up about it,” she explained.

Bailey ran as a democrat although now she is an independent. “I was asked to run for state office [after the election.] I told them to call me back in four years, then the pier fell in and everything changed,” she recalled.

While on the council she was also a representative to the SANDAG Council of Governments, San Diego County Criminal Justice Planning Board, San Diego County Disaster Preparedness Council, San Diego County Chapter of the United Nations Association, California Solar-Cal Commission, Imperial Beach Human Relations Commission, IB Senior Services Center Board, Citizen’s Advisory Committee Chairman and Advisor to the Younger Citizens Advisory Committee of IB.

Bailey said the political life was hard on her late husband. “He was very quiet in a lot of ways, He loved to fish and hunt and do outdoor stuff. He didn’t care about politics. He was my very best friend in the world,” she said.

Bailey has fond memories of her time on the council. “You try to make a difference but you have to compromise. Sometimes you make decisions you don’t want to make for the greater good that affect people’s lives,” she said.

While she was on the council, she worked at the concession stand and was also a licensed sport fishing boat captain working on vessels off the I.B. pier and  H &M in Point Loma. “I was happy when the [fishing] season would start but not so happy by mid-season. Sometimes I worked 21 days without days off,” she said of her job on the boats which lasted for 10 years.

When Bailey was on the city council she remembers talking to Don Langdon’s high school history class. That’s where she met Serge Dedina, the current I.B. mayor. “I nominated him to the Concerned Young Citizens Committee. He said that’s what got him started with community service,” she said. Bailey said that when Dedina started his campaign for mayor he called her. “We talked for two hours. I knew I’d support him for sure after that,” she said. And in fact, Bailey even campaigned for him.

The night the pier fell in during a storm in February 1980, she and her husband lost their livelihood and their lives changed. She remembers receiving a call from her nephew at 6 p.m. during the city council meeting about the pier being in danger.  She went to the pier with the city manager and fire chief at 10 p.m. trying to decide if the pier should be closed.

“I asked my nephew to walk with me on the pier. At that time the pier had asphalt, chunks of it were gone, pilings were gone, the pier was swaying six to eight feet. I knew it was gone that night. We were 10 feet away from the building and saw a set of three waves coming and the wind was blowing really hard. The ocean looked like it had popcorn all over. I saw three waves. We’re hurrying down the pier and the first wave hit. It was very noisy. The second one I thought it’d take the pier; the third one came as we ran. We heard a big crack and the wave took the T at the end of the pier. The piece of the pier was bobbing in the water a few minutes later. I barely got out in time,” she said.

Bailey thought the power on the pier should be turned off in case of a fire, then the lights shorted out on their own.

“My whole livelihood was gone. In the end everything worked out. You go with the flow,” she said looking back at her life.

After the pier fell in, she and her husband moved to New Mexico for six years and later to Delaware for 14 years where she took a course as a mediator for the criminal justice system, to lighten the work of the courts, and served as an Experienced Mediator. “I would sit down with both sides. I was happy with all the cases, only when they couldn’t agree. It could be a little scary sometimes. I always had somebody else with me,” she said. “I believe you should serve your community in some shape or form.”  

While in Delaware she worked as an Electric Power Plant Equipment Operator at the McKee Run Generating Station. After her husband passed away she moved back to Imperial Beach and worked as an Assistant Control Room Operator by Duke Energy at the South Bay Power Plant, which was demolished a few years ago. She retired from that job. 

Bailey was a tom boy growing up. She played as a quarterback and punter on the Pop Warner Football Mom’s team for two years to raise funds for kids uniforms. Her stepson was on the team.

“At one game there were 3,000 fans. It was a game once a year but we practiced for two months. It was rough and tumble. One woman ended up in a wheelchair for eight months,” she recalled.  During the practices she injured her sternum and had to take a few weeks off.

“It was a lot of fun,” she said of those days. 

These days Bailey enjoys the simple things like watching whales off the I.B. beach. Bailey loves watching football and her favorite sports are tennis and golf, a sport she still plays with her 92-year-old dad. Her dad is a golf enthusiast and has hit a hole in one three times in his life, the last one when he was 84-years old. He currently lives in El Cajon and is giving up his driver’s license; Bailey plans on driving him wherever he needs to go.

This job is not new to Bailey. She took care of her mother-in-law while she and her husband lived in Delaware. “I was so blessed. I had the best mother-in-law in the world. I truly loved her like a mother. She lived with us for 10 years,” she said. “Once I called her and couldn’t reach her for a day. Her meds had  knocked her off. I got so worried. I told her ‘You are coming out here whether you like it or not,’” said Bailey.

Bailey was always active and played softball through her 30s. In her 40s and 50 she played racquetball and played in tournaments until her knee was injured and she had to stop. Bailey’s last adventure was in 2004 when she and a friend took a two-and-a-half week trip around Europe.

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  • James Wallwork posted at 9:57 pm on Tue, Feb 14, 2017.

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