In the wake of October’s resignation of El Cajon’s mayor, a Realtors group is hosting what it calls an East County Diversity Forum. El Cajon officials, including police and council members, will attend.

The forum aims to “dialogue about changing needs and interests of East County’s diverse neighborhoods, as well as identify key issues and discover collaboration that will improve homeownership and quality of life for local residents,” according to a news release.

Former Mayor Mark Lewis. Image from 10 News via
Former Mayor Mark Lewis. Image from 10 News via

Five months ago, Mayor Mark Lewis resigned amid an uproar over comments he made about El Cajon’s Chaldean community in The Progressive, a national magazine.

The article said “Lewis says some Chaldean schoolchildren who receive free lunches are ‘being picked up by Mercedes-Benzes.’” Lewis also was quoted as saying, “First time (the Chaldeans) come over here, it doesn’t take them too long to learn where all the freebies are at.”

U-T San Diego reported that Lewis explained: “I was simply expressing my opinion that I believe that the limited social services made available to our residents in El Cajon should go to those most in need of them, including those within the Chaldean community.”

Lewis told the U-T he resigned primarily due to health reasons, “including what he described as a minor stroke in 2010, cancer and a dislocated shoulder.”

The Pacific Southwest Association of Realtors, a 2,000-member trade group for San Diego-area realtors, is hosting the forum from 9 a.m. to noon Friday, April 4, at the PSAR East County Service Center, 1150 Broadway, El Cajon. Attendance is free.
Participants are expected to include state Assemblyman Brian Jones, El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, El Cajon City Council member Star Bales, El Cajon City Manager Doug Williford, El Cajon Police Chief Jim Redmond and El Cajon police Capt. Jeff Arvan.
Others invited are district representatives from the office of U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter; Renae Arabo, San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce; Ben Kalasho, San Diego East County Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce; Bob Montgomery, International Rescue Committee; Dana Stevens, El Cajon Committee Against Substance Abuse; Eve Wong, Youth Athletic League; and, Sue Rearic, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.

The facilitator will be Sheridan Barker of the Haines Centre for Strategic Management.
The forum is part of a grant from the National Association of Realtors awarded to PSAR to help establish relationships with organizations and groups in the East County for the purpose of encouraging collaboration between local community organizations, improving homeownership opportunities and enhancing the quality of life for El Cajon residents.

RSVP is available by e-mail at For more information, call PSAR at (619) 579-0333 or visit