[Editor’s Note: Crossroads II is a well-known grassroots community organization in Chula Vista. Susan Watry, a founder, passed away on September 13th. Here, we recognize her contributions. Her husband, Peter Watry, provided permission to republish this article about her inspiring work.]
Crossroads News Brief September 2016
Crossroads II lost one of its founders on September 13 — Susan Watry died while in Kaiser Hospital. In 2003, Susan and seven other people sat around the table in former Mayor Will Hyde’s kitchen and decided it was time to organize a group of Chula Vista residents to bring the voices of residents to City Hall. Developers, city staff members, and politicians had always combined to process the development of Chula Vista. Perhaps the view of residents also ought to be heard, thus Crossroads II was born.
But that wasn’t Susan first fight with City Hall. In 1971, we found out by accident that it was on the Council’s Agenda to widen Second Avenue (where she lives) from two lanes to four lanes from the northern border to H Street. That would dramatically change the nature of her Second Avenue! She sprang into action, got the news spread to every home in that stretch, and she and another lady cut a hundred or so green ribbons. When people arrived for the Council meeting, she and the other lady gave each one involved a green ribbon with a pin. The Council Chamber was filled to overflowing for the first time, and as seen from the dais, a sea of green ribbons. To make a long story short, Second Avenue is still a nice two-lane street.
In 1888, with money from the Santa Fe RR, Frank Kimball built the Sweetwater Dam and reservoir. His water company was a private company, and with changes in ownership over the years, it was still a privately owned water company (Cal-Am) in the 1970s. Knowledgeable people in Chula Vista & National City did not think Cal-Am was operating the water company in the public’s interest, so they decided to have an election to buy out Cal-Am and make it a publicly-owned company. They needed someone to run the election campaign, and they asked Susan to do it.
- Stat #1: Cal-Am spent more than $80,000 on the campaign; Susan had less than $5,000.
- Stat #2: Cal-Am won 2/3 of the precincts; Susan won 1/3.
- Result: Susan won the election, and thus the Sweetwater Authority of today.
It was a Special election, many of which we used to have, and Susan simply did her research. We walked the 1/3 of precincts that had heavy-turnouts in Special elections three times, all the others not at all. Cal-Am spread their money over the entire area, most of whom were not even going to vote.
With the creation of Crossroads II, while Patricia Aguilar was the “public face” of CII and its main speaker and activist, Susan did the background work, keeping the records of members and donations, keeping members informed, the only person who actually knew every of several hundred members, sending out renewal notices, filing copies of news articles and other paperwork, and basically ‘keeping the home fires burning’ while others were out talking to Council Members, key staff members, reporters, whoever else they could badger, walking the picket lines, etc. Susan’s contribution continued even when blindness and poor health restricted her movements.
She will, indeed, be missed. But she leaves Chula Vista in many ways better than she found it when she arrived here 56 years ago.
See Crossroad II’s website here.