Since 2015 Winters has been experiencing a home building boom bringing hundreds of new homes to the Winters Highlands subdivision. Meritage Homes has started grading for the final Winters Highlands phases where they will be building out 149 lots. Other major development projects in the pre-construction stages include Walnut 10 with 50 lots and Farmstead with 200 lots.
Overseeing the growth in Winters has been Contract City Planner Dave Dowswell, who announced that after 45 years in the business, he is retiring in October. City planners work with the city and developers to create land use plans that allow communities to accommodate growth.
Dowswell came to work in Winters in 2014 while working with a consulting firm. He retired from the City of Dixon in 2011 as the Community Development Director after the acting city manager came to him and said they needed to make some budget cuts and noted that sub-division development “just came to a halt,” Dowswell said.
Dixon then offered Dowswell a choice — one year severance pay or retirement with an opportunity to work on a contract basis. He chose the latter and joined a consulting firm that provided consulting services to the City of Winters and Dixon.
“I’ve enjoyed working for smaller cities which I have pretty much done my whole career,” he said.
Once thinking he would follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and become an architect, Dowswell said he always liked drafting and drawing and took mechanical drawing classes in high school and college. Early in his college career, he had doubts about pursuing architecture.
Concerned, he met with a college career counselor and discussed career paths. His counselor asked if he had ever considered becoming a city planner. Dowswell admitted that at the time he had no idea what a city planner did, but after receiving an overview he was intrigued enough to pursue it.
Dowswell is a graduate of UC Davis where he earned a bachelor of science degree in environmental planning and management, a.k.a. city planning.
Recent past Planning Commission Chair Paul Myer recalled about Dowswell, “His in-depth knowledge and professional manner were key to helping us conduct open, productive planning commission meetings that gave everyone a chance to be heard. Dave’s input helped us commissioners make fair decisions that served the community’s needs and followed the rules. He will be missed at the city.”
When asked what the most demanding part of his job has been, he said, “politics can be really challenging,” and added that it is unavoidable, but that he has learned over the years not to let it interfere with his job.
City Manager Kathleen Salguera Trepa said in an email, “Dave Dowswell has been a pleasure to work with. He has 45 years of professional planning expertise in several communities, and has been instrumental in the city’s transition in the community development area following the departure of John Donlevy and Dan Maguire.”
Kirk Skierski has been hired to oversee planning, housing and economic development when he assumes the role of Senior Planner. His first day on the job was Monday, Oct. 4.
Dowswell said he was part of the interviewing process and thinks Skierski is a good fit for Winters. Skierski is a graduate of UC Davis and comes to Winters from Siskiyou County where he was the Planning Division Director.
Trepa added, “Dave has agreed to assist with onboarding Kirk and may remain available to assist with more complex projects that require additional support to help shepherd them through the development process, for example the Farmstead EIR which is currently underway.”
Married for 45 years and the proud father of two adult children and two grandchildren, Dowswell said he hasn’t fully figured out what retirement will look like. His wife retired from the banking business five years ago. Dowswell is an avid golfer and a volunteer for the Solano Habitat for Humanity. Aside from a few home projects, he anticipates traveling more and visiting friends.