Councilman Robert Patton is always calm and composed. It may have something to do with the fact that he is a first grade teacher and is used to dealing with chaos at times. Patton has been a councilman for three-and-a-half years and he is ready to do it again.
Patton, whose father Robert Sr. was in the U.S. Navy, moved to Imperial Beach when he was in first grade. Growing up he did a lot of surfing and swimming and became a lifeguard in 1982. Patton was a Lifeguard II and an EMT and was the man who created the junior lifeguard program in the city in 1995. Patton was the coordinator of the Junior Guards program for the first three years. “It was basically like running your own school, like a classroom and my education background helped,” he said. He retired from lifeguarding in 2012.
Patton has been teaching at Lindbergh Schweitzer Elementary School in Clairemont for 23 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from SDSU and a master’s degree in Education Administration Credential from National University. Patton loves to teach children including those with special needs. “At any given time I have six to seven with an IEP and the help of one to two full time adults. It’s a team effort,” he explained. Over the years he has taught grades from first to sixth.
When Patton decided to run for his first term on City Council he did it for different reasons. “I was looking at our city and everything seemed to go well from the outside looking in. I wanted a voice. My kids were getting to the age where I could be a voice and something could affect them as well as other kids. I had a pretty good name recognition I taught hundreds of kids [in the Imperial Beach lifeguard program],” said Patton.
Before filing the paperwork to run this time around he wanted to make sure his family was ok with the idea because family comes first, he said. When making his decision whether to run or not he asked himself, “Why should I walk away from the learning curve ? … Why walk away when IB is better than ever,” he said.
Just like every resident in I.B. he wants to keep the small town atmosphere. “We have to move forward with baby steps,” he said.
In fact, Patton is a member of an ad hoc committee that is revisiting Prop P, a proposition about height and density regulations. The committee is ensuring that new construction does not exceed current code.
“My biggest thing is - I’m going to run a positive campaign. I’m going to focus on the city and where we’re supposed to be and where we are headed rather than [being] negative about others. I hope anybody else that runs will take the same course of action,” he said.
When Patton took office three-and-a-half years ago he said he walked into a frying pan. “The city was going to contract out Sports Park to the YMCA. Residents didn’t want anything to do with it. “We worked with Little League and the Boys & Girls Club … We narrowed it down and resolved the issue … It’s one of my biggest accomplishments which is ongoing and successful,” he said.
Patton is always worried about seniors and kids when projects are considered and how they can be served. He is also proud of the fact that in 2012 when the economy was not doing well, the city was able to continue to prosper because it is fiscally sound and conservative.
Patton is excited about the events and changes happening in the city like the new library, the senior center, paving of the alleys, and streetlights. He praised the council for working so well together. “My term in one word is, it’s been rewarding. I try to be the voice of reason. I don’t have a huge agenda. I want us to stay who were are, true to ourselves. There has been a huge change in the city’s culture and city hall is more responsible to residents and businesses…we are solution based. It’s not a yes or no but ‘How can we fix this?’” he explained.
Anytime Patton is somewhere representing the city he acts as a salesman and tells everyone about I.B.’s great schools, shops, people, and restaurants. “Look at our homes. It is hard to find a good home. When houses come on the market they are sold right away..” he pointed out.
Like other council members he is an I.B. representative in local agencies. While last year Patton was a representative for SANDAG, this year he is doing the same for the South County EDC.
Although he is a full time teacher, husband to wife Katie (also a teacher), and father to Jake,14, and Hannah 12, he takes time out of his schedule to attend events around the city in addition to the city council meetings. “It is time consuming but rewarding,” he said.
In the near future Patton explained that the council will focus on improving Triangle Park, will continue with the alley paving project, the reconstruction of two new restrooms at Veteran’s Park and Sports Park, improvements at City Hall, update municipal code and of course a dog park which is a hot topic lately.
Patton said he has been a good representative for the city, always answering messages and emails, meeting people and making them feel welcome. “It’s a team effort, but without the city staff, or our new mayor who stepped up his game and is doing a great job… If it wasn’t for the team I wouldn’t run. That’s why I want to stay in the game,” he said.
For many years Patton enjoyed surfing and traveling on surfing trips but lately he said golf is his therapy. He stays in shape by swimming, body surfing and doing Crossfit. “It’s a big passion of mine. I know that if I’m healthy now with a healthy body and healthy mind [it will be good in the long run,]” he said.
Patton said that even though he has had a term in the city council he does not take anything for granted. “I will reintroduce myself to people,” he explained. When he won the seat last time he did so by 1,000 votes. He will map out routes and will campaign in different sections of neighborhoods knocking on doors. “I will let them know who I am and what I stand for…it’s an honor. I take it seriously. I had never thought of running until four-and-half years ago. Now I want to continue to be part of I.B.,” he said.