Breeze Cross of Truckee
As a Tahoe-Truckee resident and owner of the lumber company his family has run for 65 years, Cross has made it a priority in his adult life to give back to his community. "There is a sense of honor in being able to do that that never goes away, which never grows old."
Cross was born in Reno in 1950 and raised in Tahoe City, and he has lived in the Tahoe-Truckee area almost his entire life. He remembers Tahoe before the 1960 Olympics as being a very different place. The fire department was an all-volunteer force, for example, and the town basically shut down between Labor Day and Memorial Day. Around the time he turned 10, his parents refused to drive him places anymore "because we knew everybody...they told me to go hitch."
Cross' family has been in the lumber business since 1885, when his great-grandfather founded a lumber company in Merced and San Francisco. In 1940 his grandfather became partial owner of the Truckee-Tahoe Lumber Company, buying it in total ten years later. The company was passed down to his father and eventually to Cross himself, who started working for the business in 1972.
Lights for the Softball Field
While Cross enjoys running the family business, his real passion is helping the community. However, it wasn't public service but sports that first got him involved in local government. In 1976 Cross decided to run for the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District Board because he wanted to get lights put in the Regional Park, where he played softball. He ended up serving on the board for eight years. During his tenure, the board approved the development of the Truckee Rodeo Arena and the Gephardt Amphitheater in the Regional Park.
At the end of his second term, Cross thought he was finished with politics. "I decided I probably didn't want to do anything more with government," he said. "It wasn't my cup of tea."
Truckee Becomes a Town
When Truckee citizens started pushing for incorporation in the early 1990s, Cross was inspired to come out of an early retirement. He became involved with the incorporation committee, and in 1993 he was elected to Truckee's first town council.
"When the town incorporated, I felt it was really important to provide a perspective grounded in history and business, and to see those things represented in the formation of the town government," he said.
The council was presented with its first major challenge before the town was even officially incorporated. Six weeks before the incorporation date, the council broke off negotiations with Nevada County that was to provide essential services, like police, planning, and public works. The break was based on legal complications. This left the five council members with less than two months to organize Truckee's entire government.
"It was an exciting time," said Cross, who was putting in 30 hours a week at the council in addition to his job at the lumber company. "We did it."
A Plan for the Town
In 1994 Cross became Truckee's second mayor. It was at this time that the town was developing its first general plan. With so many different groups trying to influence the plan--from property owners to proponents of no growth, managed growth, and open-space--Cross found it challenging to weigh all the diverse interests. After the year-long process was over, however, he felt the council had done a good job.
"It was a divisive process. But in the end, everybody's interests were considered by the council and the county."
With all the new projects currently slated for Truckee, Cross says he believes the general plan he helped to formulate, along with its recent update, will ensure that the town does not lose its charm.
"I think the town of Truckee, while under a lot of pressure to grow, is doing a very good job balancing the interests of the public and its citizenry, and the rights of property owners to develop land."
About four years ago, Cross realized that the Truckee-Tahoe region was facing another crisis equally as serious as development issues: affordable housing. Due to the high cost of real estate, he was struggling to hire and retain employees. So Cross decided to do something about the problem. Along with three others, he organized three regional housing forums, out of which the Workforce Housing Association of Truckee Tahoe was born. WHATT is a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of policies and projects that will create more affordable housing in the area.
Today, Cross says, WHATT is positioning itself to become a regional housing authority that will be able to offer financing, receive land for future projects, qualify buyers for affordable housing, and partner with jurisdictions and developers. Without a group like WHATT, Cross says, he believes that the area's economy could be at serious risk.
"The greatest danger is that our land will be consumed with inadequate housing stock to supply the employees necessary to operate our community's business and government."
Cross, who also co-chaired the Tahoe Forest Hospital Capital Campaign and helped found the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe and the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation, among others, was recognized for his work on behalf of the community in 2003 when the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association named him Citizen of the Year. The Truckee Donner Chamber of Commerce presented him with a similar award in 2002, as well as the Truckee Rotary in 2000 and 2002. To Cross, these awards symbolize his biggest achievements.
"What I am most proud of is the contribution my family in business has been able to make to the community."