Young at heart: Helix wants Concord youth to step up

By Peggy Spear on February 4, 2013

It makes a certain amount of sense that one of the top items on the Bay Area’s oldest mayor’s agenda is to involve more young people in the city of Concord. “I want to acquaint young people with local government,” says Dan Helix, 83. “They learn about the state and federal governments in schools, but so much of what affects their daily lives happens at a local level.”

Helix should know: this isn’t his first rodeo, so to speak. He served as mayor and a council member for Concord from 1968 to 1976, and a Director of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District. He was re-appointed to the Concord City Council in 2010, to serve the remainder of District Attorney Mark Peterson’s term, and was just sworn in as mayor in December.

This time around, he is perhaps learning to say “no,” more, and to keep council business from becoming a 24/7 occupation for he and his wife, Mary Lou. But other than that, the decorated Army general is in command of his troops.

Besides developing a strong youth voice in the city, Helix’s other objective is to guide the city as it develops the Concord Naval Weapons Station. Besides his experience in local government, Helix served on a U.S. Congressional Commission considering structural changes in the Department of the Army, was on Governor Schwarzenegger’s Military Base Retention Commission; and co-chaired the Concord Reuse Committee for the CNWS. He has seen what the station was, and has grand plans for its future.

“I want to make sure this city is good shape not only for the next generation, but for the 22nd Century,” he says.

To that end, using the base to develop revenue-generating projects is a priority. His own vision is to see the site anchored by a state-of-the-art sports training facility, most specifically for soccer, and attract businesses and projects that appeal to Concord’s quality of life.

There are other projects brewing that he isn’t quite ready to talk about publically, but if he has his way, the old base will usher in a dynamic period of economic growth for the city.

That is important to him, he says, as he has seen first-hand how hard a financial hit the city has taken in the last few years, leading to layoffs in vital city services and the elimination of some programs.

“We are now coming back from that,” he told a packed Chamber of Commerce “State of the City” luncheon last month. “And I’m happy to say, our future looks bright.”

To keep it that way, Helix needs to enlist the help of the next generation of young leaders. He plans to reinvent the city’s Youth Commission, to not only educate them but to educate him and his colleagues at city hall.

He will hold a meeting with city department heads, local youth leaders and as many young people as possible later this month, to help him and his fellow council members gauge the areas of concern for young people, and map out projects that will both revitalize the community and engage youth.

He may even get busy with the texting he so dreads. “We are a wired bunch” he says of the city council. “People can reach us at any time – by phone, email and texting – and we will listen.”

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