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Barth heads civic engagement group focused on Encinitas

Teresa Barth recently retired after eight years on the Encinitas City Council. And now, she wants to serve the city in a different role.

Barth recently announced the launch of Engage Encinitas, a nonprofit that aims to nurture civic engagement and a sense of community. This includes hosting community potlucks, forums on local issues and volunteer opportunities.

“People are focused on slices, but not necessarily the whole of the community,” said Barth, who is the president of Engage Encinitas. “This is the 21st century approach to a service organization, where we’re engaging people across a spectrum of topics.”

This broad approach, she said, differentiates Engage Encinitas from many traditional nonprofits. But she said the intent isn’t to replace groups like the Encinitas Lions Club, which focuses its energy on a select number of causes like its annual event for visually impaired surfers.

“We want to head events or partner with groups where it makes sense,” Barth said. “Maybe the Lions Club takes the lead on a project, and if they have a need, we can help out in some fashion.”

Another group goal: inform the community. Engage Encinitas will organize forums so that residents can listen to experts speak on relevant topics like protecting coastal infrastructure in the face of rising sea levels.

“We’re not here telling people how to think,” Barth said. “We’re going to give them the tools to have an understanding of relevant issues.”

And although Barth was on the council for two terms, she stressed Engage Encinitas is nonpolitical.

“About a year and a half ago, a group of us started talking about the need for a nonpolitical, nonpartisan place where the community can talk and learn more,” Barth said of the group’s origins.

Besides volunteer efforts and forums, she said to count on gatherings, including picnics at the new Encinitas Community Park. Barth said based on conversations with locals, many are eager to better connect with neighbors.

“We can get into a silo in our social life, and we don’t have an opportunity to interact with people, even from extended neighborhoods or outside of where our kids go to school,” Barth said. “So people would be encouraged to walk around and talk to people they don’t know.”

The San Diego Foundation, which educates residents about local issues in a nonpartisan fashion, has influenced Engage Encinitas.

However, in contrast to the foundation, Engage Encinitas will emphasize more facets of community life, hopefully serving as a template for other cities to follow, Barth said.

The group hosted its first event, a cleanup at Moonlight Beach, on Jan. 19.

She said the nonprofit likely won’t hold standing membership meetings. Rather, it will keep people abreast of future events through its website and Facebook page. All are welcome to attend events, Barth said.

Barth said a few years ago, she wasn’t sure just how active she’d be in city affairs after leaving office. But Engage Encinitas and the future of the Pacific View property gave her reason to remain heavily involved, she added.

And on that note, Engage Encinitas will likely encourage residents to get involved in planning what should happen at Pacific View, she said.

“Pacific View is such a biggie,” she said. “I want more people to be involved with what should go there.”

The group is also looking to spearhead “cash mobs” — residents converging at a local store and spending at least $20 each — to support community businesses.

Residents joining Barth in Engage Encinitas include: attorney Liz Taylor (vice president); professional writer Tiffany Fox (secretary); and Mim Michelove (treasurer), who is the co-founder of the school nutrition group Healthy Day Partners.

For those interested in learning more about Engage Encinitas’ mission, joining events or becoming a part of the group’s steering committee, visit engageencinitas.org.


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