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Solara ready for County board supervisor

Rick Chandler

The transition from South Lake Tahoe chief of police to El Dorado County board supervisor should be no big deal to Dave Solaro – in fact, call it small potatoes.

Large challenges are nothing new to Solaro, who broke in as a young policeman in Oakland, Calif., during the 1960s, cutting his teeth in law enforcement as an entire nation was in transition.

“I guess you could say I was in the middle of the turbulent ’60s,” said Solaro, who retires from his South Lake Tahoe post in November after 33 years in law enforcement. “It was a time that has not been seen since. You had the free speech movement, campus unrest, motorcycle outlaws and everything else you associate with that time in that place. It was quite a way to break in.”

Solaro, an Oakland native, joined the force at age 21 after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Cal Poly Pomona. He also has a master’s degree in Organizational Management and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the California Command College.

He was elected to the County Board of Supervisors District V seat in June, replacing retiring District V Supervisor John Upton.

He spent 4 years as a police officer in Oakland before joining the South Lake Tahoe force in 1969.

“I guess you could call it a condensed education,” Solaro said of his time on the Oakland force. “Four and a half years during that time was worth 10 or 15 years someplace else.”

Solaro was working as an officer in the Juvenile Division – spending a lot of his time involved with the People’s Park riots in Berkeley – when a position opened at the South Lake Tahoe department in 1969.

“The primary reason I left was that I wanted to raise my family in a rural location,” he said. “Plus, I was living in the Hayward Hills, spending two and a half hours of my life each day commuting. I was getting tired of that.”

Solaro and his wife, Marjorie, have two sons, Chris, 29, and Jon, 19. Solaro worked through the ranks at South Lake Tahoe, becoming chief in 1992.

“The department will be very sad to see Dave go,” said Patrol Division Cmdr. Bart Owens, himself a 21-year veteran of the South Lake Tahoe force. “Dave came along (as chief) at a tough time for the department, as we were making a transition of our own.

“The past chief had been mainly a leader by hierarchy,” Owens said. “Employees did not have much participation in decision making, and that was causing a big strain. Where non-emergency decisions were concerned, we wanted to change that policy.”

Solaro brought a more hands-on, employee-friendly approach to the job as chief, allowing officers to have input on issues such as what firearms to use and the development of a K-9 unit, among other things.

“Dave is very involved in community issues, and encourages his command staff to get involved also,” Owens said. “I think he’ll be a very professional board supervisor.”

As chief, Solaro was involved with such organizations as the Lake Tahoe Kiwanis Club (where he is a past president); the Tahoe Youth and Family Services Board; the Lake Tahoe Boys and Girls Club; the Secret Witness Program and the Tahoe Tallac Association.

Although he will continue to report to work at an office every day, Solaro anticipates he will miss his current job. But he eagerly awaits his new challenge.

“The timing was right (to retire),” Solaro said. “My youngest son is going off to college, and I’m looking forward to working with the board. I’ve always been interested in politics, and I want to be part of the policy-making segment of government, helping to make positive change. I sure will miss the department, though. It’s been a great place to work.”

In June, Solaro captured 58.6 percent of the vote in defeating South Lake Tahoe City Councilwoman Margo Osti and local businessman Dan Browne for the District V seat. He will be sworn in during a local ceremony on Monday, Jan. 4 at 9:15 a.m. at the Superior Court Building in South Lake Tahoe, and again officially at noon on the same day at the Board of Supervisors chambers in Placerville.

The South Lake Tahoe Police/Fire Department will hold a retirement party for Solaro on Oct. 9 at Harveys Resort Hotel/Casino. For ticket information, contact the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce or the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.

Solaro takes his seat on a board that has earned a reputation for infighting in recent years – a reputation Solaro hopes to eliminate.

“Right now the county planning process seems to be based on emotion, rather than true input from the community,” he said. “All the initiatives and lawsuits that we’ve been experiencing lately have been counter-productive to the community. There are larger issues we should be addressing.”

Two of those issues for Solaro are opening a board office in South Lake Tahoe and adopting a code of ethics for supervisors.

“It’s important for people in the community to be able to communicate with me without having to go to Placerville,” Solaro said. “I will be available to everyone.”

As for those who try to categorize him as pro-growth or pro-environment, he has a surprise.

“People should not try to place where I will be aligned (on any one issue),” Solaro said. “If they do, I will continue to surprise them. I like to look at all sides of an issue, and try to treat everyone fairly.

“As a police officer I was first and foremost an advocate for the individual,” he said. “I will be the same as a supervisor.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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