Diaz keeps eye on the prize | TheUnion.com

Diaz keeps eye on the prize

Olivia Diaz learned early in life to keep her eye on the finish line.

It was just before Diaz ran a 50-yard dash in grade school that her uncle gave her the cherished piece of advice: “Keep your eye on the goal, run with everything you’ve got, and never look back.”

In the split second the runner she was trailing looked back, Diaz passed her to win the race.

“Boy, has that (advice) been useful in life,” Diaz said.

Diaz, a 61-year-old mother of three, is vying for the District 1 seat on the Nevada County Board of Supervisors and is facing opponents Nate Beason and Josh Ramey in the March 2 election.

She has received the endorsement of District 1 Supervisor Peter Van Zant, who is not seeking re-election.

Diaz moved to Nevada County about four years ago with her husband, Dr. Ernie Malamud. She said she was tired of watching the places she lived – Phoenix, Los Angeles, suburban Chicago – be overrun by sprawl. When she noticed a similar pattern in Nevada County, with houses being quickly constructed in the south county and large annexation proposals in the works, Diaz decided she would be a bystander no more.

“I was not going to stand by and watch it happen again. I needed to get involved in government,” she said.

Diaz said she wants to stop what she describes as constant tweaking of the county’s general plan to appease large developers. She said developers should not get waivers on requirements for affordable housing or not having two viable exits, which Diaz said “particularly disturbs me because it has to do with fire safety.”

At a house party in Nevada City recently, Diaz did more listening than talking with voters. The former vocational rehabilitation counselor said her ability to listen is what the county needs to curb the exit of department heads and other key officials.

Fire safety is another top issue for Diaz. She said several neighborhoods don’t have adequate evacuation routes, which could potentially leave people trapped during a fire.

Diaz’s interest in fire safety is one reason Incumbent Van Zant said he supports her.

He said Diaz has helped establish fire-safety policy by speaking at board meetings on behalf of the Cascade Shores Homeowners’ Fire Safety Committee, of which she is the chairwoman.

“She has already proven she’s an effective leader in the community,” Van Zant said.

After working as a counselor in the Las Angeles area, Diaz moved to a Chicago suburb to run the Warrenville Chamber of Commerce. She also operated a science museum with her husband in Aurora, Ill.

Politics is nothing new to the great-grandmother living in Cascade Shores. Diaz said she learned the importance of community involvement from her pioneering father, Adam Diaz, who became the first Mexican-American city councilman in Phoenix, Ariz., in 1954.

Diaz said her father occasionally met prejudice and resistance, but his purpose was to open doors. She recalled her father’s efforts to encourage the city to give diverse job candidates a fair shake.

“He didn’t call people racist; he said, ‘You’re not looking at the qualified people,'” Diaz said.

Diaz said she learned from her father, who was recently named to the Arizona Hall of Fame, about how to keep emotions separate and use rationality to achieve results.

His lessons could prove useful if Diaz wins in March and is met with ideological resistance from a conservative-heavy board. But Diaz said she has had to carry a heavy load before, and as a rehabilitation counselor, she has helped people beat overwhelming odds, Diaz said.

However, Diaz said she is hopeful the board will find common ground. There are several issues all sides can agree upon, she said.


Bio in brief

Olivia Diaz

Age: 61

Candidate for: Nevada County Board of Supervisors District 1

Current hometown: Cascade Shores

Occupation: Retired businesswoman and museum executive director

Major issues: Sprawl and fire safety

Web site: http://www.oliviadiaz.org

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