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Escondido's young new mayor aims to tackle homelessness

On Dec. 14, 33-year-old Dane White made history in Escondido as the youngest mayor to take office.

A role he only daydreamed about.

"The first time I saw "Back to the Future," when Goldie Wilson is sweeping the floors in the restaurant he says, 'I'm gonna be mayor,' and ever since then I thought, 'Yes, I'm gonna be mayor,' but never in any seriousness," White said.

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Originally his eyes were set on city council, not becoming mayor.

“And then when it was clear that there was no Republican stepping forward for mayor, we started putting out feelers and ultimately decided it was winnable — if we were willing to put forth the work,” White said.

And the work paid off, giving the victory to White.

Tallies from the San Diego County Registrar of Voters show White received 18,317 votes, compared to 17,183 for former Mayor Paul “Mac” McNamara.

Now, he said, it's time to get to work in the city he grew up in. His priorities for the next four years will be on public safety, public works, and addressing homelessness, which he said he's experienced firsthand.

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“I ended up becoming addicted to drugs, drinking a ton of alcohol, and ended up homeless right here in Escondido," White said. "I often say I lived behind the 7-11 on the corner of Country Club and Center City, and that is where I spent several nights.”

And the issue of homelessness, he said, is complex.

“There are some folks who have a hard time accepting the fact that there are people on the streets who don't want help, who’ll never accept help," he said, "And will always be on the streets, because that's the life they prefer. And we will never find a solution for that." 

On the other hand, White said some want help, but don’t know where to turn.

"And that’s part of the issue too. We’ve gotta direct people on where they need to go to get help, but we also have to be willing to provide more of that help,” he said.

In recent weeks, White has been conducting ride-alongs with law enforcement on the front lines to see what they are facing and what resources are needed.

While homelessness is only one of the problems many cities face, White aims to leave Escondido better than he found it.

“Escondido is ripe with opportunity, and I hope we take advantage of some of that and make this a better place for all of us," he said.

White is a fifth generation Escondido native. His wife is Kelsey White, a special education teacher. They have two daughters, SonnyJan and Hattie.

He comes to the mayor’s job from serving on the Escondido Union High School District board.