10 Questions for Peter Kohl, Encinitas Senior Volunteer Patrol leader


Peter Kohl has lived in Olivenhain since April 1992. He was born and raised in Germany and first came to the U.S. in 1954 on a foreign exchange student program.

He attended high school in Lorain, Ohio, as a senior. Under the terms of the program, he had to return to Germany in 1955. The family that he lived with sponsored Peter and members of his family as immigrants. He returned to Lorain in August 1956. Even though he was not yet a citizen, he was drafted in 1960 and spent two years on active duty in the U.S. Army, mostly in Fort Carson, Colo.

Kohl worked for an Ohio electric utility company for 10 years, but in April 1966 he embarked on a new career — the “red light” business. “People would give me a funny look when I mentioned that, but I told them to instead think of traffic signals and traffic signal control equipment,” he said.

He met his wife, Marge, in March 1966 and they were married in November 1969.

In March 1970, Peter Kohl was offered a position at a traffic-control manufacturer in Sunnyvale, south of San Francisco.

“I remember flying to San Jose for my interview. In the Chicago area it was minus-10 degrees with snow on the ground. In Sunnyvale, it was in the low 80s and sunny, so Marge and I were ‘sold’ on moving to California,” he recalled.

In 1991, Kohl accepted a position with a traffic-control manufacturing company in Vista. Working from home, he handled the company’s distributor network, but moved to Encinitas in 1992. He retired in 2004.

In February 2007, Kohl was appointed to the City Traffic Commission (reorganized as the Traffic and Public Safety Commission in March 2014) as the representative from Olivenhain. He is in his eighth year and has twice served as the chairman during that time. Marge Kohl is a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Retirement has a tendency to make one complacent, said Kohl, “so I looked for a way to give something back to the community. I found it by joining the San Diego Sheriff Department Senior Volunteer Patrol in 2008. It has been extremely rewarding and I have had the opportunity to get to know interesting and fascinating people that I would not have met otherwise.”

About two years ago, he took over as administrator of the Encinitas crew. “This has given me many new challenges and keeps me on my toes. I encourage every retiree to consider doing this,” he said. “The basic requirements are citizenship, at least 50 years old, no felony convictions, valid California driver’s license, car insurance and being able to pass a thorough background check.” Call Kohl at 619-993-2859 to learn more.

What brought you to Encinitas?

My job. I had gone to work for a company in Vista and was looking to live near the coast. My wife and I looked at many houses and the one we liked best is located at the west end of Olivenhain, next door to New Encinitas.

If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in Encinitas?

I would use it to improve the driving behavior of all people on the road; regardless if they are in cars, pickup trucks, motorcycles or bicycles, etc. I am convinced that the majority of drivers consider themselves guilty of breaking traffic laws only if they get caught.

Who or what inspires you?

Good Samaritans.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you invite?

Harry Truman, Margaret Thatcher, Abraham Lincoln, Otto von Bismarck, Conrad Adenauer, Johann Strauss, Sally Ride, and my wife, of course.

What are your favorite movies?

Science fiction.

What is your most prized possession?

A ring that has been passed from father to son in my family for well over 100 years.

What do you do for fun?

Reading, travel, wine tasting, crossword puzzles.

What is it that you most dislike?

Rude people; people that hide behind anonymity when criticizing others.

What would be your dream vacation?

Exploring every area of Germany and Austria in a private tour for two to three months and enjoy a good glass of beer or wine while doing so.

What is your motto or philosophy of life?

Try to be the best person I can be and be tolerant of others that try to interfere with that philosophy.