Pacific Beach Town Council presidency turned over to the next generation

Volunteer Jaden Ballardo and PB Town Council board member Charlie Nieto talking before the council.
Volunteer Jaden Ballardo and PB Town Council board member Charlie Nieto reviewing the success of the council’s Graffiti Day Clean-Up during the PBTC May 2022 meeting.
(Steven Mihailovich)

Charlie Nieto, 20, elected to lead organization in 2023


In a calculated effort to attract more young people, the Pacific Beach Town Council elected 20-year-old Charlie Nieto as its new president.

The vote was held during the council’s Oct. 19 meeting.

Nieto will succeed outgoing president Marcella Bothwell on Jan. 1.

Born and raised in Pacific Beach, Nieto became the youngest board member in the council’s 71-year history when he was initiated two years ago. He quickly became an integral part of the organization, serving as communications chair.

Bothwell told PB Monthly that Nieto’s ascension was not a result of innovation but a recognition of the inevitable.

“Not everybody likes change but I think it’s time,” Bothwell said. “I’ve been in organizations where the leadership just rolls around to the same people over and over again. ... We’ve been trying to figure out how to get young people involved. The best way to do that is to put them in charge. If you’re going to do it, go all in. It’s time to hand it over and see what happens.”

Nieto, a Mission Bay High School graduate, is majoring in business administration marketing at San Diego State University.

He is also an artist who first engaged with the council when in spring 2020 he entered its art contest, “The Community in Quarantine.”

Nieto’s entry, “The Hazmat Surfer,” was among winners and the contest raised $5,000 for the council. Nieto said his involvement snowballed from there.

“During high school and growing up, I wasn’t really aware that the town council even existed,” Nieto said. “I know a lot of other young people are the same way. I am really excited to be able to bring the kind of traditional sphere of Pacific Beach as well as the new generation of Pacific Beach together in a way that improves the community for everybody who lives here.”

Nieto is the leading edge of a broader infusion of young blood into the town council that’s yielded Jaden Ballardo, a Mesa College student, and Trisha Goolsby as two new members elected to the board of directors.

Ballardo will assume the communications chair position next year and Goolsby will serve as membership chair.

“People are in the pipeline,” Bothwell said. “We’ve made a pipeline. But I want more people in that pipeline.”

Nieto got the nod for the presidency by virtue of being first in line and proving his capabilities during his freshman tenure on the board, Bothwell added.

Reelected as a board member, Bothwell said she and other board members will be available to support and mentor Nieto, but the die is cast and the future has arrived.

“This is the way to get people interested,” she said. “Why would a young person join a bunch of old people? I wouldn’t. This is the way to revitalize the organization.

“This is putting our money where our mouth is,” Bothwell said. “This is really showing that we want young people. We want them in leadership. We want them to make decisions for themselves. To take ownership. To take responsibility for successes and maybe some failures.”

Also elected were Cathie Jolley as vice president, Susan Crowers as secretary, Michael Herndon as treasurer and Karl Rand as board member. Two open slots remain on the board.

Along with the rejuvenated board and town council officers, fresh faces dominated the meeting.

Police Capt. Erwin Manansala made his first appearance at the council since being named commander of San Diego Police Department’s Northern Division on Sept. 17.

The 41-year-old Manansala, the youngest captain in the department, said the Neighborhood Policing Division and supporting personnel recently disbanded 12 homeless encampments in Pacific Beach along Rose Creek and elsewhere, hauling six tons of debris out of the area.

When asked about people sleeping overnight on the beach, Manansala urged residents to report the illegal activity on the Get It Done app. Audience members pointed out that overnight beach campers disburse by the morning while responses to Get It Done reports usually require days.

“In our experience, people that camp on particular areas generally tend to camp in the same area for multiple days or weeks or what not,” Manansala said. “So that’s where the Get It Done app would come into play.”

On the job for a mere two weeks, Lifeguard Marine Safety Lt. Jacob Magnus introduced himself to the audience as well. A 24-year veteran on the force, Magnus was sergeant in Mission Beach prior to his promotion and previously served 10 years in Pacific Beach.

Magnus spoke about his experience tackling illegal beach fires that leave dangerous debris of burnt charcoals and other contaminants behind.

“We worked really hard with (police) to try to go after mainly the companies that were renting out their firepits,” he said. “We made a pretty good dent but we still have a lot of work to do on that.”

Questions revolved about the legality of propane fires, which Magnus called a “gray line,” but Manansala noted a new ordinance was being drafted to clearly delineate what is and isn’t allowed on beaches and should be docketed before the City Council in November.

“One of our problems was the wording wasn’t very clear,” Magnus said. “It made our job a lot tougher. But once that comes out, it’ll be easier for us.”

State Assemblyman Chris Ward made his final appearance before the council as the community’s representative. Pacific Beach was draw out of the 78th District during redistricting.

Ward discussed the 18 pieces of legislation he wrote that were signed into law during the last legislative session that ended in August. He focused on bills affecting gun violence, climate and housing.

Ward said the state’s revenues are either flat or declining due to inflation and rising interest rates, but said state programs and other funding will not be affected in the short term because the legislature has maintained a robust “rainy day” fund.

“California in fact is now the fourth of the 50 U.S. states in its financial solvency,” Ward said. “So counties won’t have the rug ripped out from under them. Education especially will not see a reduction. So we’ll be fine next year. Come January, we’ll see what those numbers are with the governor’s draft budget and get to work as legislators ... to try to finalize that budget with what we have to work (with).”

Beginning Nov. 30, Pacific Beach will be part of the 77th Assembly District. It stretches along the coast from Carlsbad to Coronado and served by Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath, a former Encinitas city councilmember.

While no longer its representative, Ward said he plans to remain in contact with the council.

“I’m not going to lose touch with this very important and marquee community organization that we have here in the community,” he said. “Our office doors are always open to receive some of that input.”