SOLANA BEACH — After nearly a dozen years as a member of the Solana Beach City Council — three of them as mayor — Lesa Heebner is not running for re-election in November.
“Twelve years is the perfect amount of time for me,” she said. “I’m happy and thrilled with the job, and I want to leave when I’m happy and thrilled.”
Heebner was the top vote getter when she first ran in 2004 and again in 2012. She was appointed in 2008, when the city canceled the election because the candidates ran unopposed.
Heebner said she has a long list of proud accomplishments during her time if office. They include the renovation of Fletcher Cove Park “from an asphalt parking lot to what it is today — a pretty cool community gathering spot” — and the adjacent community center.
Major improvements were made along a 1-mile stretch of Coast Highway 101, a $7 million project that was about 10 years in the making.
Heebner said she is also proud of the city’s environmental sustainability efforts that include being the first in the county to ban single-use plastic bags and polystyrene containers.
“Those types of things came from the community up, and I think that’s a great model for other communities,” she said. “When your community members ask you for something you listen and pursue it and I think that’s great.”
Also on her list of proud accomplishments is Solana Beach’s progress on forming a Community Choice Aggregation program. The city recently issued a request for proposals to find a partner to provide renewable energy at competitive or cheaper rates to residents.
“That, again, came from community members who brought this to our attention,” Heebner said. “We didn’t even know about it five years ago.
“Our fiscal sustainability has been quite good over the years,” she added. “We were the first in the county to enact full pension reform. That’s something to be really proud of.”
Of course, the job has not been without its challenges.
“I think the biggest frustration is things just take so long,” she said. “I’ve been there for 12 years. There’s been a lot of accomplishments but there’s also some things I really want to see completed.
“I’m hoping before I walk out that City Hall door for the last time as an elected official that we will have made some progress on the (train station) project,” Heebner added. “And it’s looking positive that way.”
The city has been working for more than a decade to develop the property surrounding the train station into a mixed-use complex.
There’s also the stalled development of a 2-acre parcel on Highway 101 at Dahlia Drive and the complete replacement of Solana Highlands, a nearly 200-unit apartment complex on Nardo Avenue.
“It’s taken a while for Solana Highlands but the developers are working with community members on that,” she said. “But that’s democracy and it takes a while.
“I think it’s a good sign in Solana Beach in some ways because we listen to our community members and we work hard to come to agreements with developers who are proposing projects that might have been met with some resistance,” she said. “But we work with them to hopefully get something that will fulfill all needs.”
In addition to attending the twice-monthly council meetings, Heebner serves on eight of the city’s 10 regional and standing committees and the advisory Climate Action Commission.
“There’s one really cool thing that can happen, and that is every time I want to go on a trip I don’t have to look and go, ‘Oh I can’t go because I’ve got this committee meeting or this council meeting or this board meeting,’” she said. “I’ll be able to be a little bit more spontaneous in planning some trips. And I’m open. I’m definitely not done. I’ve got a lot of juice left in me.”
Although in 2011 Heebner considered running for the District 3 seat on the County Board of Supervisors, she insists a political career is not in her future.
“Honestly, I don’t have any desire for higher office,” she said. “I love where I live. I worked really hard to help keep it the way it is, and hopefully it’ll stay that way. I don’t want to go to Sacramento four days a week.”
Heebner, who has lived in Solana Beach for nearly 40 years, began her professional career as a stockbroker. She then transitioned into a culinary career as a cookbook author, kitchen designer and food editor.
“Things just present themselves to me … and they’re usually just perfect at the perfect time so that’s what I anticipate will happen again,” she said. “I’m open to whatever the circumstances bring me.
“I’m grateful to the community for the opportunity to serve them for 12 years,” she added. “It’s been a very rewarding 12 years — very gratifying, very challenging.
“There’s been a lot of personal growth as well as professional growth,” she said. “It’s an opportunity not many people are afforded so I have a lot of gratitude.”