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Monterey Herald - Pacific Grove politician reaches out to constituents in unique way

PACIFIC GROVE >> A lot of politicians conclude their job becomes easier if they run from their constituents, but a Pacific Grove city councilwoman is taking a completely different approach to representation.

Casey Lucius, 37, is welcoming all comers to run (or walk) with her to discuss the issues they consider important to their city — an invitation she calls "Get Fit With Casey."

In an era when the most tempting temporary remedy to any problem is to let a call go to voicemail, Lucius says the concept emerged largely out of necessity in her own life: Too much to do, too little time.

"The idea was born, I guess, just from looking at my schedule and realizing that the one thing that consistently seems to fall out of my schedule when I get busy is exercise — even though it's very important to me, and to my energy level," said Lucius, a military veteran who served in the U.S. Navy from 1997-2005, and currently teaches a class (National Security Decision-making) at the U.S. Postgraduate School's War College. She's also a wife and a mom, with a 4-year-old son, and sits on multiple boards and commissions.

"I don't have a lot of free time," she acknowledged with a laugh. "Meanwhile, I get a lot of requests from residents to meet and talk about issues, so it occurred to me that maybe I could combine those meetings with my exercise."

The other aspect, said Lucius, is that walking or running through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world tends to create an environment conducive to pleasant conversation.

"Whenever you're talking with people about issues that are important to them, it can often be contentious," said Lucius, who was elected to Pacific Grove's City Council in 2012. "My thought was that maybe that situation could be alleviated a bit if we did it in a more-casual environment, while we're wearing sweatpants, and either running or walking. I think people tend to feel a bit less tense and more informal in that kind of setting."

Lucius holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Hawaii, and is a former Naval Intelligence Officer who moved to Pacific Grove in 2008.

"I got involved with a couple of boards (American Disabilities Act and Traffic Safety) right away, and, through those, started attending council meetings," she said. "One thing I noticed immediately was there wasn't a lot of representation for women, for parents, for working-aged people. Even now, most of our council members are retired.

"Certainly the retirees want to be represented, but we also have a population of people who are working, people with young kids, people who are juggling a lot of things. I thought I could fill that niche, and that's the demographic I try to reach."

Her well-kept secret, Lucius admits, is that she would much rather nap than run, but her military career created fitness habits she hopes to maintain.

She jogs most days before work, at 6 a.m., or immediately after, around 4:30 p.m., enabling herself to attend night meetings for the council, boards and commissions she serves.

"It's just so beautiful here, and that's the thing," she says. "Sometimes I'll get caught up in certain issues or controversies, but if I just go down to the rec trail for a five-minute walk or a short run, it's like, 'Ah, this is gorgeous. What in the world do we have to complain about?' "
Anyone interested in walking or running with Lucius is encouraged to contact her at
Dennis Taylor can be reached at 726-4371.

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