For Phyllis Roche, it's easy to explain why she became so involved in the campaign against Measure W and redevelopment.
"I'm just a citizen," is her first response, and one could easily add "concerned" to that self description. Roche is a relative newcomer to the city of Lodi, yet she is a key player on the team that not only collected enough signatures to force a vote on the city's redevelopment plans, but may overturn them as well.
The former school teacher recently earned "Golden Grad" honors from California State University, Sacramento in recognition of the 50th anniversary of her graduation from that school. Roche lives in a cozy condo off Lakeshore Drive, and in her free time she plays the piano and cards.
On a recent afternoon, Roche sat in her spotless home, which is decorated with family portraits, religious statues and scenic watercolors, and talked about her why redevelopment worries her.
She's worried about the crushing debt that she says will come with redevelopment, as well as the power it grants developers working with the city.
"We're so awash in debt in this nation and in California," she said.
She agrees the city's Eastside needs improvements. But what needs to get fixed are the area's streets, water mains and pipes.
"There's no reason why the city can't do the infrastructure," she said. This could be accomplished through better budgeting on the city's part, she said, rather than taking out millions in debt to help developers plan elaborate shopping malls.
And at the very worst, Roche is worried that although Lodi has pledged to not use eminent domain to seize private property for redevelopment projects, the city could always change its mind.
"It sounds like you don't have control of your real property anymore," she said.
Roche has been interested in politics and government for most of her life. She recalls when she was in eighth grade and was assigned to take the position of Democratic Presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt in a mock debate.
She was a Democrat for most of her life until 1952, when she and her husband listened to each party's convention on the radio, and she chose to go with Eisenhower.
Roche's husband was a crop duster during the week and on the weekends flew jets out of Naval Air Station, Alameda. When he retired in 1970, he was the commanding officer. About 20 years ago, he passed away.
Roche would later become the president of the Republican Women of Lodi and a member of the San Joaquin County Central Republican Committee, and even spent a term on the state Republican committee.
Most of Roche's political interests lay beyond Lodi, as she lived outside the city limits on Tecklenburg Road for nearly 50 years. She moved within the city limits a few years ago and became curious about the redevelopment debate. After learning more, she had more questions about the plan and eventually decided it wasn't the right step for the city.
Roche teamed up with other redevelopment critics and helped get the issue to the voters by convincing more than 4,000 people to sign a petition.
If that is any indication, Roche said she's pretty confident heading into March 3 special election.
"I just kind of feel this is the wrong time to get involved with anything to do with money."