Nick DePrisco, First Apple Valley Mayor, 1947-2023

Nick DePrisco Jr., the first mayor of Apple Valley whose adherence to the vision of the community as a place with a less-hurried and more rural atmosphere than the citified environment of Queens, New York where he was raised set the tenor for the town he co-founded, has died.
DePrisco, 75, passed away on September 29 in Laguna Woods from the complications of the pancreatic cancer he suffered from.
Born in New York on March 17, 1948, DePrisco was the son of Nicholas DePrisco and Gloria DePrisco. He spent his youth in Queens, attending Smithtown High School on Long Island.
As a young man, he came to California. He attended and graduated from California State University East Bay, also known as Cal State Hayward, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
Out of college, DePrisco worked as a teacher for a time. He gravitated toward a career in law, attending Western State College of Law in San Diego and obtaining his juris doctor degree from Thomas Jefferson College of Law in 1977. He worked in private practice for nearly three years and in 1980, San Bernardino County Public Defender Charles Ward hired him as a deputy public defender.

Because he was to work primarily out of the Victorville Courthouse, DePrisco and his wife moved to Apple Valley. He remained with the San Bernardino County Public Defender’s Office until 1987. He returned to private practice that year in a partnership with Robert Ponce in Victorville. He handled all manner of criminal law from misdemeanors to felonies, including driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated, drug crimes, traffic violations, juvenile crimes, sexual assault, parole and probation compliance, homicide/murder and white collar crime, along with family law cases extending to divorce child custody, child support and visitation rights.
While in Apple Valley, DePrisco was a member of the Victor Valley Democratic Club, ultimately serving two terms as president of that organization. He was also a part-time instructor at Victor Valley college where he taught criminal law.
As early as 1980, a municipal incorporation drive manifested in Apple Valley, one which cost in the neighborhood of $42,242 from start to finish to carry out and was funded by the municipal formation proponents. The movement was supported by a core of between 50 and 100 residents, who elected to have Apple Valley incorporate as a town rather than a city. In 1988, the incorporation question was placed on the November 8 ballot and 33 of the incorporation sponsors vied for a position on the maiden council in an accompanying race that would count only if the incorporation initiative, known as Measure K, succeeded.
Measure K cruised to easy passage with 10,683 votes or 83.4 percent of those participating in favor. A second initiative, Measure L, passed, installing at-large elections. Of those 33 candidates for the town council, only 12 raised enough money for their campaigns to be required to itemize the donations they had received. The dozen collected a combined total of $51,310 in electioneering money. DePrisco ran the most effective campaign of the 33, garnering the top number of votes, followed by Heidi Larkin, Dick Pearson, Carl Coleman and Jack Collingsworth. Thus, DePrisco, Larkin, Pearson, Coleman and Collingsworth became the town’s first council and DePrisco, as the most popular among the five with the town’s voters, was named mayor of what was San Bernardino County’s 21st municipality.
Elsewhere in the county – even as close as Victorville and Hesperia – there was aggressive development taking place. Apple Valley came to represent a bulwark against that trend. Apple Valley soon adopted as part of the town code a limitation on the intensity of development that called for minimum half acre lots with the construction of single family residential homes. DePrisco was a prime mover in the effort to ensure that lot sizes remained large and homes were set back from the street and from each other.
While in office, DePrisco allowed Apple Valley to unite with the City of Victorville in the formation of the Victor Valley Economic Development Authority, which also initially involved Hesperia and the County of San Bernardino, and was intended as an administrative vehicle by which local control of the property at George Air Force Base, which was shuttered by the Department of Defense in 1992, could be wielded for civilian use conversion. In time, however, DePrisco came to recognize that the authority, known by its acronym VVEDA, was being manipulated by Victorville so that city could take control of the base property, acing out the City of Adelanto, which was actually more proximate to the base property than Victorville. DePrisco, perceiving that there was little benefit to Apple Valley in the arrangements relating to the former base property, sought to prevent the one-side domination of VVEDA by Victorville as time progressed, but was politically outmuscled in that effort, and Victorville ultimately took possession of the air base, which is now known as Southern California Logistics Airport and is managed by Victorville.
DePrisco, whose work as a public defender and defense attorney put him into a position of closely witnessing the work of local law enforcement, at one point pressed to have the cities of Victorville and Hesperia and the Town of Apple Valley close out their separate contracts with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department for the provision of law enforcement service and, using the benefits of the economies of scale that could be had, form a tri-city police department. That effort, despite getting further support from other local politicians, never came to fruition.
DePrisco remained on the Apple Valley Town Council until 1996.
That same year, he left private practice to become a public defender once again in Riverside County. In 1999, he was promoted to the position of supervising public defender in Riverside County, a post he remained in until 2003.
DePrisco moved to Orange County, ultimately to the upscale community of Laguna Woods. There he returned to private legal practice, with offices in Mission Viejo and Ladera Ranch. He discontinued practicing law in 2020.
DePrisco considered himself an amateur musician and athlete, playing the guitar, piano, organ and tennis, as well as riding horses with aplomb.
He was avidly involved in promoting what he considered progressive political ideals, until recently lamenting the Democratic Party’s decision to have Hillary Clinton as its standard bearer in the 2016 presidential election rather than Bernie Sanders.
He is survived by his daughter, Berkeley DePrisco; his sister, Barbara Cozza Ph.D., a professor of educational leadership in the Department of Administrative and Instructional Leadership at the School of Education at St. John’s University in Queens; his sister, Carol Stoerback and brother, Bill DePrisco.
-Mark Gutglueck

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