Living in El Cajon since 1979, Michelle Metschel was a single mother, raised her daughter, got married and bought a house in District 2 20 years ago. Metschel is the department administrator for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor Project in San Diego. She said in dealing with the city, she is a “keyboard warrior” on social media, and watches city council meetings, remaining active in the community. The 62-year-old Republican said she always wanted to be more involved but needed a push. She was encouraged to run by El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells and his wife, even though she had been critical of city council on several occasions.
Metschel said District 2 has not had a lot of representation. She said it is typical subdivisions with houses built in 1950s, mostly blue-collar workers, single parents, with much diversity.
“We have a grassroots campaign and I just want to be part of the solution,” she said.
Metschel is a grandmother of three and said she wants to make sure they have a clean, safe neighborhood for her family and El Cajon residents. She said she is fiscally conservative and socially moderate.
“It is what is your ideology and how do you see the city and the world,” she said. “We all want the same thing as a Democrat, a Republican. We both want transparency in our government, clean safe and crime free neighborhoods, and help the homeless. We all want a nice place to live.”
Metschel said her three top priorities are public safety, homelessness and affordable housing. A former EMT, she said she is a strong supporter of law enforcement, relying on them and fire personnel in dealing with her work on crime scenes, traffic accidents and transferring patients.
“I don’t believe in defunding the police, but we can definitely work with de-escalation tactics,” she said.
Metschel said she would like to see 911 services revamped to have an option to contact a Psychiatric Emergency Response Team and another option for all other emergencies.
“PERT members are not going to go on scene if they don’t feel safe,” she said. “We would have to look at budget, resources and see if that is something city council would like to move forward with.”
Metschel said El Cajon has worked on the homeless problem with several good programs. She said working with organizations like the East County Transitional Living Center, Home Start, and Crisis House should be expanded, and the city should look at other ways to help the homeless population.
“Maybe we can get a facility together that has shelter beds that would be filled and not sitting empty like a lot of other shelters,” she said. “And then have wrap around services such as mental health counseling and job skills.”
She said this is important to her as she spent her teenage years homeless in Nevada.
“I know what it is like to live in a motel room with three of my other siblings, a cat, a dog and everything that we owned,” she said. “I know what it is like to live in a car and be in a foster home. I have so much empathy for people experiencing homelessness because I have been there.”
She said it sounds cliché, but most people do not want a handout, but a hand up.
“If you are struggling and you have drive and you have been knocked down to that gutter, having someone say that they are there for you, here’s what we have to get you through, but what can we do to get you to the next step, and then the next step and eventually you can have your own place,” she said.
Metschel said El Cajon is growing and it needs more affordable housing. She said ownership instills pride in the home and the community. She said the city needs to partner with similar organizations such as Habitat for Humanity to build more homes for lower income families.
“The recipients of the homes put in sweat equity and they are getting a home that they have to put some action into. It is not just a handout,” she said.
Metschel said that she would like to set up programs where mortgage brokers, financial planners, bankers can meet with residents to help facilitate the home purchasing options. She said the process can be daunting for a first-time home buyer. She said the other issue is Section 8, which has a waiting list of 10-15 years. She would like to find a way to speed up that process and what Council might be able to do to help.
Metschel said having worked with a pharmaceutical company that conducted clinical trials, she does not believe that there is going to be a vaccine or cure for COVID-19 anytime soon and believes that the government is being “really optimistic” in saying that there will be a vaccine by the end of the year. She said the economic impact of COVID on residents and businesses should not be handled by the state.
“I think Mayor Wells was absolutely correct in saying that he wasn’t going to make his law enforcement officers ticket people for not wearing a mask or a business that has remained open,” she said. “We have to get people back to work and get businesses open. If Home Depot, Walmart, banks and other businesses are open and people are going in there and they have restrictions in place, if they can stay open then the beauty salons and other small businesses should be able to open as long as they follow the guidelines.”
She said people are “losing their minds” over this and does not believe that allowing the mandates to open and close businesses cannot be continued.
“It is called personal responsibility,” she said. “If I don’t want to wear a mask and I want to go to a grocery store that requires you to wear one, then I don’t go to that store without a mask. If you are elderly, compromised, health problems then don’t go. But allow others to work, make a paycheck and pay their bills.”
Metschel said if it continues in this direction that homelessness will increase, and the city’s revenue will decrease.
“We have a good-sized reserve fund, but if we don’t have the money come in, the longer we stay locked down as a city and the less money we have coming in to pay our bills and keep our infrastructure going,” she said. “We are the only state in the Union that has in indefinite deadline for opening back up. And we don’t get answers from the state. But the state is the one mandating all of these restrictions, then the county is implementing them with their own set of restrictions. It is such a convoluted situation that it is difficult.”
Metschel said she has heard other candidates say that City Council needs more diversity. She said people need to stop focusing on what race is represented and focus on the character of the individual.
“We are all one community. If we want a growing, healthy community, we have to work together as one,” she said. “There cannot be division. A civil society requires civil behavior. I have met with everyone on Council and I consider them very ethical, open and I would be very honored if elected to work with these people.”