By Emily Sorensen
There might not be anyone more devoted to keeping the original values of Poway alive than Dee Fleischman.
Fleischman, 80, is deeply devoted to two Poway causes: the local government, and Poway’s trees, and she isn’t afraid to let her voice be heard about both.
Fleischman has been attending City Council meetings for over 30 years, missing only a handful of meetings over the years. Though many who attend council meetings now know her as an outspoken advocate of the issues she feels are important, including preserving the original vision of Poway as the “City in the Country,” Fleischman said she is actually extremely nervous about public speaking and didn’t speak up at the council for many years.
Though she doesn’t use email, Fleischman manages to stay up-to-date with Poway issues thanks to reading staff reports and the City Council agenda, as well as reading newspapers and magazines.
She originally became interested in the politics of Poway back in 1980, when Poway became a city. Fleischman was dating her future husband, Riley, a Poway resident who was, like her, deeply interested in local government. “We dated by attending City Council meetings together,” said Fleischman. “I was a cheap date.”
Fleischman still holds to the wishes of the City Council from Poway’s early days as a city. “I saw responsive council, responsive to citizens’ concerns. They had a vision of what they wanted Poway to be,” said Fleischman, who recalled how the original idea of Poway’s hiking and riding trails was looked down on by many. “I guess I’m the voice for those original people, who had a vision for what makes a community livable and scenic.”
Fleischman is also known for her devotion to Poway’s trees, a passion that was born growing up in the Midwest. Living in Chicago, Fleischman witnessed the destruction of the American elm tree due to disease, and a passion for trees was born in her. “When you lose trees, you lose bird nesting sites, which increases insects and creates urban heat traps,” said Fleishman.
She was an original member of the Poway Tree Committee, which oversaw tree care in Poway, and was also responsible for naming heritage trees in Poway. The committee was disbanded last year, but Fleischman hasn’t let that stop her from making sure that Poway’s historic trees are being properly preserved and cared for.
Though Fleischman’s outspokenness has sometimes caused her to butt heads with the City Council and her fellow Poway residents, City Councilman Jim Cunningham and Poway businessman Kevin McNamara came together recently to show their appreciation of her by presenting her with a plaque of appreciation at a City Council meeting, honoring her for her advocacy and devotion to her local government. “I have a plaque that belongs to a lot of other people,” said Fleischman.
Though Fleischman has no immediate plans to stop attending council meetings, she hopes some of the younger generation will take interest in their local government. “I’m shocked that a lot of people [aren’t interested in their local government],” said Fleischman. “A good government relies on an informed citizenry.”