“We have a strong reserve position and I believe we should use some of that surplus to continue to develop strong “quality of life” programs and services for the people of Rancho Mirage,” Downs says.

RANCHO MIRAGE — Steve Downs, who got a taste of public office when he was appointed to fulfill the remaining months of the retiring Dana Hobart’s term, is seeking a full, four-year term in the Nov. 8 election.

There are three seats up for grabs. One is Hobart’s seat. He abruptly announced in November 2021 that he was leaving after serving nearly two decades on the Council. Incumbents Charles Townsend and Iris Smotrich are not seeking re-election.

Besides Downs, Louisa Davis, Lynn Mallotto, Meg Marker, Kim Martos and Ken Ammann qualified to appear on the ballot.

Council members in Rancho Mirage are elected at large for four-year terms. The other two seats, now held by Richard Kite and Ted Weill, will be on the ballot in 2024.

Uken Report (UR) sent candidate questionnaires to all six candidates. Downs was the only one to reply. Following are his responses:

UR: Occupation?

Steve Downs: Realtor for past 20 years.  Senior Executive Officer Bank Leasing company prior 30 years.  Currently, RM City Councilmember

UR: Who or what motivated to run for City Council at this time?

Steve Downs: Geri and I came to Rancho Mirage more than 20 years ago. We knew few people here but, we knew this was the place where we intended to spend the remainder of our years, and this was the place where we might build a post-retirement business. We built a residential Real Estate Agency employing more than a dozen and representing up to 100 or more Rancho Mirage buyers and sellers each year. The people of this city supported us, helped us prosper and became our friends. My neighbors eventually elected me as President of our HOA. Our children moved here and now live close by. Eventually, I served on Planning Commission and on City Council. Today, our roots run deep in this city and as a result, I have a serious sense of Civic Pride and a serious sense of Civic Duty. I believe I have a public service obligation to a city and to people who have given so much to me and to my family.

UR: What makes you a better candidate than your opponent(s)?

Steve Downs: I stand for the values that are important to the majority of RM voters – the RM tradition of good governance and strong city management – the financial strength of RM (we’ll end fiscal 2022 with a $7.6M surplus and increase reserves to about $70M) – the remarkable set of services and amenities for our people, big things like our library, observatory, and amphitheater; smaller things like no cost ambulance service, turf rebates for drought tolerant landscape conversion, Rancho Mirage Energy Authority that provides electricity at reduced rates, there’s even a rubberized compound on our street surfacing that cushions our roads and reduces wear on our cars and on us. Ours is a city with a tradition of building and protecting high “quality of life” standards for our people. I plan to stand strong in protecting, nurturing, and building on all of these traditions. I plan to work hard to build the best possible future for our city.

UR: What can you bring to the City Council that is currently missing?

Steve Downs: I have a strong and long business background.  My business career has spanned more than 50 years. Early in my career I worked in the commercial equipment leasing industry for 30 years. For many of those years I worked for a leasing subsidiary of one of the world’s largest banks. While there I graduated through the ranks to become the Senior Executive Officer in charge of all business operations. My team and I grew the business to more than $4 billion in assets in 2022 dollars and counted as clients a healthy percentage of the S&P 500.  I plan to use that experience to continue and expand on the remarkable tradition of managerial excellence in our city

UR: What is the single most important endorsement you have and why?

Steve Downs: Actually, it’s a combined endorsement.  Every sitting member of the Rancho Mirage City Council endorses my candidacy.  I think that tells the voters what our current city leaders think about my service to the city.  If I had to pick one single endorser, I’d have to say that I’m proud that legendary, long serving, now retired City Councilmember Dana Hobart endorses me.

UR: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment either in or out of office?

Steve Downs: My family has to be my greatest accomplishment.  As mentioned earlier, Geri and I moved to RM 20 years ago and our children have subsequently followed us here.  We have a strong and supportive family unit.  I’ve been fortunate to achieve other goals – graduating through the ranks to become senior executive officer of the leasing company I worked for over many years – building a successful post retirement business – leading my HOA through a tumultuous time after an LLC bought and closed our golf course.  But it’s my family life of which I’m most proud.

UR: What is the single biggest issue facing Rancho Mirage and why?

Steve Downs: RM is fortunate to have a bright future ahead but, there are always issues to plan for and stay ahead of.  We’re a city of about 19,000 residents. At full build out, we’ll grow to about 25,000. We may grow our population by some 30% – but – we will always be a small city with a special small city character. Our challenge is to intelligently manage that growth in a way that: serves and protects our people – encourages sound economic growth for our businesses – protects our quality of life – promotes our traditions of sound city management and fiscal responsibility. One of our biggest growth challenges will be to manage our Affordable Housing Plan which is part of the Housing Element of the RM General Plan that was approved by Council earlier this year.

UR: What will you propose to do about it?

Steve Downs: Promote and institute the Housing Element of the General Plan.  Assure that Affordable Housing opportunities are part of the future growth in our city.  At the same time, protect the special “quality of life” that the people of Rancho Mirage have come to expect of our city leaders.

UR: Is there one decision with City Council has made with which you strongly disagree? If so, what was it and why?

Steve Downs: In my time on Planning Commission and on City Council, there have been no issues that have come up that I disagree with.  That said, I’d like to see our city continue to build on and expand programming for our Library, our Observatory, our Amphitheatre, our Speakers Series.  We have a strong reserve position and I believe we should use some of that surplus to continue to develop strong “quality of life” programs and services for the people of Rancho Mirage.

UR: You are all well-known. What is one thing people don’t know about you?

Steve Downs: I’m pretty much an open book, not much people don’t know about me.  I guess one issue I’ve mentioned a couple of times is my life before Rancho Mirage in building and managing a large equipment leasing company for one of the world’s largest banks.


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