Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Where are they now: small town girl grows up to be chamber CEO

Lila MacDonald

Special to the Village News

I have always loved this town. I have been discovering its gifts since I was a child. My younger brother and I used to walk into town to get penny candy at the Westerner and chocolate malted crunch ice cream at Thrifty’s. My favorite treat was a pineapple sundae and the fried burritos at Richardson’s (now Pedro’s Tacos). We hung out at the Boys and Girls club in the summers and loved to explore all around Fallbrook!

My mom opened a shop on Main Street (Avenue now) and I would go there after school and help out. By the time I was 16, I was bookkeeping, decorating, scheduling sub-contractors and, of course, still walking along Main Street to get Grape Phosphates and Chef Salads at Rexall Drug Store, yummy treats at the Lace Apron, or shopping at the many unique shops on my break.

I loved going to school here. There was serious “Warrior Pride” and the entire town could be found supporting everything from fabulous floats to football. I was very involved in high school. I played (field) hockey, was on the cheer squad, kept stats for basketball and was the cheer mascot when we went from Maui to Murphy to win the CIF championship!

I won Miss Congeniality in the Miss Fallbrook pageant and volunteered at events in the community. Growing up in a small town meant amazing friendships were made in this town from the early age of Kindergarten.

Through high school leadership activities, I also became involved with a group called Friday Night Live. When I was hit by a drunk driver during my junior year, crushing every bone in my foot and being told I would never walk again, my passion, determination and strength were tested. Living in this community, surrounded by family and friends forged an even stronger love for this town. It was unimaginable to think that I may never be able to comb the streets and dirt roads that I loved so much. It was one of the most powerful memories, and has made philanthropy and giving part of who I am.

I graduated from Fallbrook High, class of ‘88 and headed for the city. While I loved the journey and had some very interesting jobs, including running a diner in Hollywood, cheering for the LA Clippers and working for large companies, I missed my beloved town. Despite all the positive experiences I had in the “big world,” I decided to move back to our Friendly Village with two small children.

My mom was very involved in volunteering in the community and was president of Soroptimist International of Fallbrook and the Fallbrook Chamber; she also served as Honorary Mayor in the '80s and was awarded Citizen of the Year 1989. She set a wonderful example of giving back to your community and, as a result, I developed passion and belief in the concept.

Since I am not content being idle or just “working”, I started volunteering again; first in the schools and then in the community. It was when my mother, daughter and I owned the Sweet Sicilian Bakery together that they encouraged me to run for Honorary Mayor and be an ambassador for the community I love so much.

My daughter was Miss Fallbrook at the time and we served in National Charity League, so it was a wonderful way to extend my service to Fallbrook with my daughter, just like I had with my Mom.

I became involved with the chamber and when my mayoral term ended, I ran for the board of directors. It was an outstanding opportunity to learn and assist with the “behind the scenes” tasks that make this town the community that it is.

After the CEO retired and the next CEO was terminated, I was asked to help with the Avocado Festival and act as the interim CEO, while they looked to hire a replacement. I had some free time and because my mother, along with George Archibald, helped start the Avocado Festival, I definitely had passion for the event. I agreed to interim from January to May.

My vision for the festival included more of what Fallbrook has to offer – more avocados, more local everything and more artisans. I quickly learned that others involved also shared the same vision. I began to help bring the event back to its roots.

In the process of developing and hosting an event that brings 100,000 people to our small town, I discovered my true passion – marketing the town I grew up in, the town I love and the town that I had seen grow and had helped me grow. The place I always called home, no matter where I traveled or lived. A community that helps heal all wounds, whether physical or mental. A place where the streets are familiar, even when the landscape changes.

After the festival was over, the board decided to hire this local girl. I believe they felt and saw the passion I had for the people, places, businesses and nonprofits in this town and how hard I was willing to work to make it better.

Honestly, some days I can’t believe it is real. I believe I was raised for this job. I work with amazing women, who every day work to promote business and economic growth through member services, cooperative partnerships and cultural and educational events, so that each person in this town can achieve a higher quality of life.

I am involved in legislative advocacy, collaborating with others to continue to get the services we need and explore opportunities for growth, infrastructure and safety. Best of all, I continue to have the opportunity to explore the streets as I did when I was small, check in on locals, shop local, play local and love local!

Editor's note: The Fallbrook Alumni Association plans to submit more of these stories. Any Fallbrook High alumni who are interested in participating can send their information to [email protected] or mail to Jan Mahr, at the Fallbrook Alumni Association, P O Box 596, Fallbrook, 92088.


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