Posted: Friday, October 5, 2018 3:40 pm
by Alessandra Selgi-Harrigan
It’s never easy to say goodbye especially when you have made a difference in a community. While Councilwoman Lorie Bragg has enjoyed serving 12 years on the Imperial Beach city council she has decided it’s time to say goodbye. She will be remembered on the council for her work at MTS and for being the voice of reason.
Bragg moved to Imperial Beach about 27 years ago as a single mom and has since lived in the same historical house built in 1908.
Bragg’s father was in the U.S. Air Force and the family moved a number of times, eventually settling in Lompoc, California near Vanderberg Air Force base. Bragg studied psychology at a college in Santa Maria but stopped her studies to marry her childhood sweetheart and start a family. She had two sons, Jeff and Chris. It was when she lived in Ramona that she discovered Imperial Beach.
“A friend brought me to Imperial Beach. I said ‘this is home,’” she recalled.
Bragg eventually moved to Imperial Beach. “I was a working mom and always worked in a variety of jobs,” she said.
Looking back at the time when she first moved to Imperial Beach she remembers the Pier Plaza not being welcoming. “A little scrappy,” she described it. But the community was very welcoming.
“What was endearing to me was that as single mom, many times it takes a village [to raise your kids.] People would tell me if my kids were hanging out with the wrong crowd. It was a wonderful feeling,” she said. “That’s what I have developed and tried to bring to my tenure. This is home. We’re in it together. Seeing strands of division, party politics, districting…what’s important is your morals and ethics…whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent it doesn’t matter.”
Some of her jobs in the past included working for the Chula Vista Star newspaper and PSA Airline in the purchasing department. But it was when she was the manager of Market to Market in Imperial Beach that things started happening. “That’s when the seed for the city council was planted. People asked me ‘what’s going on in the city?’ I felt compelled to answer and started going to city council meetings. That gave me a great insight on how city government is conducted and run. Sometimes I felt there was a great community involvement but I was always curious why more people didn’t get involved.”
Bragg said she thought the council must be doing a good job because otherwise the community would pack the chambers. Around the same time she served on the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce as its executive director. “It was a natural path,” she said of running for council.
She has been part of the Metropolitan Transportation System (MTS) board of directors for a decade and a strong advocate for public transportation. Public transportation is something she discovered as a child when her dad was stationed in Germany and the family lived in Berlin. There, the family took trains everywhere. “I was 4 years old and fell in love with trains and transportation,” she said.
At MTS she served as the chairman of the accessibility committee. “It’s probably one of the nearest and dearest causes [to me.] I believe in accessible transportation for people with disabilities. I was in a cast for one year as a baby. I was born with a dislocated hip,” she explained.
Thanks to her work many changes have been made with audible announcements, braille signage, including making sure when a new development impacts an area near public transportation, the plans go in front of the committee.
”Not to diminish things done in Imperial Beach but for me…that’s where my passion is,” she said.
What also worries Bragg is the outside interests funding campaigns like UNITE, (a hotel workers union.) “The support should be local,” she said.
Bragg’s decision not to run again is mainly due to her sister’s illness. “My sister is the most compelling reason. I always give it 100 percent [to everything I do.] I knew this battle with pancreatic cancer was going to be a long battle and couldn’t do justice to that and the community,” she said.
After her sister was diagnosed with cancer last November Bragg decided to become her advocate and caregiver. Her sister lives one hour outside Santa Barbara and when Bragg goes to see her she stays a while. “There is a lot of oversight that her condition requires,” she explained.
In addition Bragg is still working for her son’s business in Mission Valley. “The mayor and council jobs are very demanding, it’s 24/7, it never lets up. If I could share something with the candidates now is ‘prepare yourself and understand the time commitment.’ It’s huge, it’s not just council meetings,” she said.
Bragg knows that well.
“I wrestled with this decision for eight months. I knew in my heart what needed to be done for my sister and my other calling. I will miss the council meetings, advising and representing people in Imperial Beach - the most impactful part of my job …Put aside my opinion, listen to people. I hope when people look back at my tenure say that I was the voice of reason, a referee. I was a counselor many times. I understood how the council should work together and see what happens when it doesn’t,” she said.
Bragg credits the city staff with making the council’s job easier. “The staff is incredible. They are the ones that make it happen. They represent us 24/7. They’re the front line, they are on the streets, they are in the office, they are the backbone. They make us look good,” she said.
Bragg was always happy to see constituents approach her while she was shopping at a store or around town. “Those conversations were not always comfortable, but they felt comfortable enough to have a conversation… I’m glad people were not afraid to approach me…I became part of people’s lives with weddings, deaths, births,” she said. “I represent every demographics, no matter what color skin, how old or young how much money you have…youth and seniors.”
Bragg will serve on the council until Dec. 5 when the newly elected council members will be sworn in. “It’s a thrilling evening for people who dare to enter the world of politics. it’s my favorite meeting,” she said.
As a side note, Bragg is also the founder of the Imperial Beach Historical Society. “As a community we hadn’t done a good job at documenting history,” she said. Bragg doesn’t credit herself with the work but the group. “Nothing is accomplished by ourselves. When you use the word ‘I,’ it’s mistake,” she pointed out.
Two years ago when she was re-elected her mother, who lived out of state, was there for the first time to witness the event. “I’m so glad she saw me. She saw her little girl in politics. She had dementia but that night she knew she was witnessing something special,” recalled Bragg. Her mother passed away a few months later.
One funny event Bragg recalls with delight was when she was running for council for the first time and her grandson lived with her. “‘I need one of your signs’ he told me. Then he took it outside and walked up and down in front of our house. It looked like he was picketing,” she said.
Bragg will soon step down and the newly elected members will get right to work. “We set policy respectfully. We represent the people of Imperial Beach not as elected leaders but as elected representatives,” she said.