Monday, May 20, 2013
Myrtle Cole is in her element. She’s often described as soft spoken, but when surrounded by cheering supporters in her campaign office, Cole comes alive.
“You could have been any place today, any place, but you chose to be here to walk with me and I thank you,” Cole says, pumping her arms and beaming at the group.
The 63-year-old grew up in Arizona and says she moved to San Diego for the weather. She worked her way up to police lieutenant for the San Diego Community College District, then shifted to politics, advising City Councilman John Hartley on community policing, then working for councilmen Charles Lewis and Tony Young.
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District 4's special election is tomorrow. Find out where to vote here.
On one of the last weekends before the election, Cole walked through neighborhoods of the southeastern San Diego district, knocking on doors and asking for votes. She climbed the steps to one door, and when she knocked, an elderly woman in a bright printed jacket answered.
“Mytle Cole, the candidate for Council District 4,” Cole exclaimed.
Cole touts her support from a variety of political leaders, including Mayor Bob Filner and Congressman Juan Vargas. Vargas came with her as she went door to door.
“She’s been in this community for a long time, I’ve known her for 20 years, and she has a lot of integrity," he said. "She’s always worked for this community, she’s always worked hard.”
But some of Cole’s support has earned her criticism. She currently works for the union United Domestic Workers and receives heavy financial backing from labor, leaving some concerned her votes would always align with labor if she's elected.
As Cole sits in her noisy campaign office on Imperial Avenue, she says she’s proud of her job supporting home care providers. And she welcomes her association with labor.
“You know what labor is? It's working families," she said. "I am so proud to have the endorsement and support of working families like the home care providers, like nurses, teachers, firefighters, police officers. If that's special interest, I love it, thank you so very much for that.”
While Cole’s opponent Dwayne Crenshaw took a break from his job during the campaign, Cole continues to work at United Domestic Workers three days a week. This cuts back her time for campaigning.
“I ran out of vacation and all that, so I had to go back because I have to make a living," Cole said. "I cannot campaign in my car.”
Cole has a diverse work history. When asked what accomplishments she's most proud of, Cole said, "all of it."
"I've done quite a bit," she said. "I have my MBA because I want businesses not only to thrive, but really thrive here in San Diego. So I've done a lot that people pointed out that I didn't realize. But I'm proud of everything that I've done."
Barry Pollard, an also-ran in the District 4 primary, said he and some of the other primary candidates are concerned about Cole's lack of history in and knowledge about District 4. Cole lived in a neighborhood that was not part of District 4 prior to redistricting, so she had to move in December to qualify as a candidate. Pollard said the group of candidates endorsed Cole's opponent Crenshaw because they felt he had more experience living and working in the district.
But Cole said she doesn't care about the endorsement of candidates who lost, and got the primary candidate endorsement she cares about, from pastor Ray Smith.
Now, Cole has big plans for District 4. She wants to bring back neighborhood watch programs, work on filling potholes and attract more grocery stores and sit down restaurants. To make this happen, she plans to work with Civic San Diego on new redevelopment plans.
"We've been neglected for far too long, far too long," she said. "So the money will come. We'll get the developers to come, we just have to make it easier. Civic San Diego will streamline that process and attract investors. Because the permitting process takes a lot longer in this district for some reason."
If she wins, Cole hopes her enthusiasm will bring new life to her district. But first, that same enthusiasm has to carry her to tomorrow's Election Day.
"People want me to win," she said. "I'll be the first woman in Council District 4 and the first woman of color on the council floor. This is the century of the woman and I'm so glad to be a woman."
Her excitement is at least wearing off on the elderly woman in the bright jacket who answers the door when Cole knocks.
“I’m going to look forward to seeing you do well,” the woman says.
“Yes ma'am, yes ma'am, I will,” Cole says.