SOLANA BEACH — A self-described cantankerous old man who was once labeled a curmudgeon, Mayor Tom Campbell was nonetheless praised as he retired in front of a standing-room-only crowd Dec. 10 after five terms on City Council.
First elected in 1992, Campbell served in the rotating mayoral position five times during his 20-year tenure.
Many of the nearly dozen speakers said they often disagreed with Campbell, who early on was frequently on the losing end of 4-1 council votes, but they praised him for his commitment to the city.
Councilman Dave Zito lauded him for his “laser-like focus on representing the members of the community,” recalling his first interaction with City Council 18 years ago regarding a proposed a development.
“You asked the applicant if he would discuss changes with the residents to increase compatibility,” Zito said.
“He said no and you voted against the project. The fact that you took that stand alone as the junior member of the council with only two years of service at that point made your stance even more impressive in my mind.
“That point to me seems to represent the start of a significant shift in returning the council focus back on the needs of our residents and local businesses,” Zito added. “You lost the vote … but stuck to your belief that representing all the members of our community was the right thing to do. Knowing that there was support from at least one council member gave those of us working on the outside motivation to keep going, to keep working for the change that was needed.”
“You always put the neighborhoods first,” resident Gary Martin said. “That one difference is so instrumental in a lot of things that have been done in this community and a lot of major projects that have been better because of your involvement.”
“I’ve not always agreed with Tom,” Margaret Schlesinger, the city’s first mayor, said. “But when I read his early objectives for the city, which were to be financially secure with a general plan and a system of governance to preserve the character of the town, I can only say well done and mission accomplished.”
“Even if we disagreed, I always understood where you were coming from,” former Councilman Doug Sheres said. “I’m sorry to see you go. I was proud to serve with you. And more importantly, I’m proud to call you my friend.”
“There was a small part of me that thought you’d just be sitting up there forever,” resident Vicky Cypherd said. “That was a comforting thought to me because I’ve always trusted your leadership and vision. Even when I haven’t agreed with you on certain issues I always respect how you made your decisions.”
Gerri Retman thanked Campbell for “helping to make Solana Beach into the beautiful city it is today.”
“You committed to vote to maintain the small-town feel of Solana Beach and protect our neighborhood,” she said. “All one has to do is look around this city to see that Solana Beach still has its soul. You’ll forever be a part of the city’s legacy.”
“Welcome to my club,” said Joe Kellejian, who two years ago retired from council after 20 years.
County Supervisor Dave Roberts, who served with Campbell for eight years, presented his former colleague with a proclamation from the county declaring Dec. 10, 2014, Tom Campbell Day.
Leslie Campbell said her brother, a certified public accountant, moved to Solana Beach shortly after opening his business in the city and became active in politics because he “truly believed that he could influence positive changes so that this community would become a great place in which his family could thrive.”
Michael Campbell said his father consistently taught him and his two brothers “incredibly powerful lessons.”
“You taught us that rather than sit back and complain about what we perceive to be problems in our community, we had to get up and have a tangible, positive impact where it mattered most,” said Michael Campbell, who was 8 years old when his father was first elected to council.
“Over the past 20 years I think you’ve done just that,” he added. “One of the most valuable lessons you taught me was to work toward, and find consensus on, what were some of the hot-button topics in this community.
“Dealing with these various issues you taught me how to look at them, analyze them, understand different viewpoints and how, most importantly, to always focus on what you believe was important for the community,” the younger Campbell said. “On behalf of Robbie, Chris and I, I want to thank you for the example that you’ve been over the past years and the lessons that you taught us about constantly striving to make this community a better place.”
Always one for brevity, the mayor had a few departing words for everyone.
“Hopefully I wasn’t too demanding and causing you too much trouble, but that’s my style sometimes,” he said to staff.
“It’s been a pleasure working with you,” he said to his colleagues “We’ve had some ups and downs and those always happen but … we’ve accomplished a lot.”
Campbell also thanked his wife, Annie, and residents.
“This isn’t really about me,” he said “It’s about you folks out there working with your council and coming up with good solutions. I’m just happy that I was here to play a part in that role.”
He encouraged the community to stay informed and involved and perhaps join a committee. Or better, yet join City Council,” he added.
“It’s been kind of an amazing journey,” he said. “For the most part it has been rewarding. Sometimes it’s been fun. Sometimes it’s been stressful. And sometimes it’s really been painful.
“It’s been great but it’s really time for this cantankerous, difficult, grouchy old man to say goodbye.”
Following the hourlong recognition ceremony, Councilman Mike Nichols was sworn into his third term and Ginger Marshall began her first.
“See you in 20 years, honey,” Marshall’s husband said as his wife took her seat at the dais.