Doug Kuehne can't go anywhere in Lodi without running into someone he knows.
And that's the way the 46-year-old businessman and emerging politician likes it.
Kuehne, who owns King's Carpet Service on the Eastside, jumped into city politics last summer with the goal of making his hometown a better place.
Now, in his second year on the Lodi Planning Commission - this year as chairman - Kuehne said he wants to maintain Lodi's small-town feel but also ensure that businesses continue to thrive in the city.
He said limiting Lodi's growth altogether is just the wrong move.
"When you run a city, it's not very different from running a business," Kuehne said from his office on South Guild Avenue. "If you're not moving forward, you're moving backward."
Kuehne knows something about business. His company has operated in Lodi for 26 years and now serves 1,500 clients per year.
Spending each day inside people's homes and chatting with them about Lodi has helped him understand the community and what residents want from it.
He believes that recently approved home projects like Southwest Gateway and Westside, which will add 1,600 homes along Lodi's western edge, are the right kind of developments for the city.
Both projects will be built by Lodi developer Tom Doucette, president of Frontier Community Builders.
They'll include "new urbanism" designs, which will keep neighbors connected, Kuehne said. Centrally located parks and bike trails are planned for each project.
"These guys understand the community - I think that's why their projects have been approved," Kuehne said.
Doug Kuehne's favorite thingsFavorite family spot in Lodi: "It used to be Cottage Bakery. Since that closed, it's now going to the movies downtown or the Lodi Lake Wilderness Area."
Hanging out at home with family is also at the top of his list, along with playing board games with his children, running around with his dog and barbecuing with family and friends.
Favorite Lodi memory: The Fourth of July pancake breakfast, hosted each year by the Greater Lodi Kiwanis Club. Kuehne was the club's president last year.
Favorite thing about being on the planning commission: The chance to learn how the city works. Through sitting on the commission and the Chamber of Commerce's "Leadership Lodi" course, Kuehne said he's gained a new appreciation for everything from city finances to its wastewater treatment plant.
Favorite book: "Boundaries," by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, a book on developing strong relationships.
Favorite meal: "Pot roast, hands down."
Favorite holiday: Christmas.
Favorite thing about living in Lodi: "Just the friendly nature Lodi has to it. That's just a joy."
- News-Sentinel staff.
He noted that mapping out more commercial and industrial parcels in Lodi is key to keeping the city's economy strong. Some commercial properties should be added near new homes, ensuring people can walk to the barber or the local grocery store, he said.
Though Kuehne has had no formal training in city planning, his supporters say his practical knowledge makes him a natural city leader.
"He has a great dedication to the city, a great mind when it comes to weeding through important facts and resolving issues," said John Beckman, the former Lodi mayor who appointed Kuehne to the commission last year.
Kuehne, the father of six children, said his family inspires him each day to make Lodi a better place.
He and his new wife, Robbi, have five young children, ages 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. Kuehne also has one 24-year-old son.
"He wants to have a positive effect on his community," said Robbi Kuehne, director of nursing at the Wine Country Care Center in Lodi.
"We're raising our family here, so it's important to have a say in the direction our community grows."
The couple married last year.
As far as Kuehne's political future, he said there's a good chance he'll run for City Council in a couple of years.
Until that time, he says he's got enough to stay busy: working on the planning commission, operating his carpet cleaning business, and shuffling his five young children from school to activities to home.
"I have a love for Lodi and what it's going to look like in the future," he added.
First published: Friday, March 9, 2007