SOLANA BEACH — From a field of a record 33 applicants, council members at the Jan. 25 meeting appointed 18 people to the city’s five advisory commissions.
“This is exciting because it’s typically where there’s not this many choices,” Mayor Mike Nichols said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
“It might make the job a little more difficult, however,” City Manager Greg Wade said.
Councilman Dave Zito agreed.
“This is a very nice but difficult situation we’re in where we have so many really good, qualified applicants,” he said.
All but four of those who sought to return to their positions were renamed to serve on their respective groups.
In three of the previous five years all who applied for their existing seats were reappointed. In 2013 two of the three not reappointed were on Parks and Recreation. The following year the only person not renamed was also seeking to return to that committee.
Chris Hohn, the Parks and Recreation chairman for the past few years and the only incumbent not reappointed, said he was surprised and disappointed.
“I love being on the Parks and Rec Commission,” the former City Council candidate said, adding that with six applicants for four vacancies, council may want to consider expanding the group.
“Our mindset is that many hands make light work and that if somebody wants to volunteer we’ll find something productive, important for them to do,” Hohn said. “If somebody really wants to volunteer and make Solana Beach civic life better, we would accept them with open arms.”
Nichols said large committees can result in inefficiencies.
“You need to have a decision-making body that can kind of go through the motions and make a decision,” he said. “By no means does this mean people can’t show up and volunteer … and give good public input at these meetings.
“It’s been a policy to keep these at a manageable level not only for staff but for the meetings” so people can reach a consensus and vote, the mayor added.
Peter McConville and Rachel Friedman were reappointed to their Parks and Recreation seats. Ashley Sammis and Dave Roberts were also selected to serve.
Zito, the only council member who did not nominate Roberts, described the former county supervisor and Solana Beach councilman, as “way overqualified.”
“I’m really excited with the number of qualified applicants we have here,” Zito said. “When making some of these choices it comes down to trying to give members the opportunity and keeping some level of consistency as well.”
Sammis and Larna Hartnack both received three nominations, so the appointment decision was made with a coin toss.
Cindy Neptune and Stephen Ostrow were renamed to Public Arts, which had six candidates for three spots.
Deborah Ann Sweet was selected for the seat previously held by Kathryn Schmiedeberg, who did not reapply.
Kristi Becker, Heidi Dewar, Melissa Seipel and former Councilman Peter Zahn were appointed to the Climate Action Commission, which was created in 2015 and filled last year.
As a result, the terms were staggered. Incumbents Steven Goetsch and David Kramer applied but were not selected after serving one year on the committee.
Chester Koblinsky, who had also completed his one-year term as the nonresident professional, was reappointed over two other applicants.
Dewar is completing Judy Hegenauer’s term, which expires in one year because Hegenauer now serves on the City Council.
To maintain an odd number of commissioners, Seipel is filling the vacancy of a council member because only one is available to attend the monthly meetings.
Most commission positions are filled by the council at-large. However, each council member selects one of the five members for Budget and Finance and View Assessment.
Budget and Finance incumbents Kevin Murphy and Gordon Johns were nominated by Zito and Hegenauer, respectively.
Jewel Edson nominated Jeff Lyle over Michael Whitton, who reapplied but was not appointed.
From a field of five applicants for three vacancies, Jack Hegenauer and Dean Pasko were reappointed by Nichols and Edson, respectively.
Kelly Harless was nominated by Judy Hegenauer to fill the seat of Edson, whose term was expiring.
“I am a very passionate community member, and I care a lot about the growth and development of our city,” Harless said. “I’m very committed to enforcing the view ordinance and considering both the interests of the proposed builder and impacted neighbors.”
Councilwoman Ginger Marshall said she “strongly opposed” Jack Hegenauer’s appointment.
“I just see a very obvious conflict of interest with Mr. Hegenauer being on a commission and council member Hegenauer,” Marshall said. “I don’t think it looks good.”
City Attorney Johanna Canlas before applying Hegenauer asked her if there would be a legal conflict. Canlas said she told him there was no financial conflict.
“However, I did advise him of the perception issue,” she said. “It’s not legally disqualifying him, and he chose to move forward.”
Nichols stood by his nomination, saying Hegenauer is “amazing at that job.”
“I haven’t seen too many that are better than he is,” Nichols said, noting the committee doesn’t make binding decisions.
“So if it comes to us, it’s not like his vote is something that would be in conflict because we’re going to hear it all over again up here and we get to make our minds up regardless of what they say,” Nichols said.
“He has a lot of knowledge and a lot of depth and, in my mind, a lot of impartiality with respect to how things are affecting the city,” Zito said. “He understand the rules. … I don’t see the same level of conflict largely because the vast majority of the decisions of the View Assessment committee don’t actually make it to the City Council from the perspective of challenging those decisions.”
Marshall, who voted against the appointment, said the commission “has a lot of inherent power.”
“And for Mr. Hegenauer to be on that … it just stinks,” she said. “It’s just unethical, in my opinion.”
Judy Hegenauer did not vote on her husband’s appointment.
All commission members serve two-year terms except those on Climate Action until the staggering schedule is complete.
At-large selections were made based on applicants who received the most votes from council members.