DEL MAR — Jon Edelbrock, who joined the city in 1992 as a seasonal lifeguard when he was 18 years old, has been named the new director of community services and chief lifeguard.
Quickly rising through the department during his more than 25-year tenure, Edelbrock has served as a lifeguard lieutenant since 2010. In that position he was responsible for the budget, hiring, lifeguard training and private use of public space.
According to the press release issued Jan. 26 announcing his promotion, Edelbrock was also in charge of operational management of the parking and facilities divisions for the past 17 years.
“I couldn’t be more excited to stick with the team and hopefully fine tune and give them what they need and what the community needs to be as successful as possible and provide a great, safe environment for everyone in our public space in Del Mar,” he said.
Even though he continued working as a part-time lifeguard during and after graduating college, Edelbrock said it was never his goal to become head of the Community Services Department.
For five years he worked as a sales engineer for a Fortune 500 graphics, multimedia and web development software company. But he decided to leave that career in fall 2000.
“I like a more active, more team-based environment and being out with the community,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed being around lots of different types of people.
“That’s what this department and this type of position has offered me, versus being locked in a small office for 10 hours a day, having a small group that you interact with,” he added. “Now I’m interacting with thousands of people a day.”
Edelbrock fills a position that has been mired in controversy for nearly a year. In March and April 2016, two lifeguards filed separate complaints against Pat Vergne, a more than 35-year Del Mar employee who previously served as community services director and chief lifeguard.
He was fired in late August after a four-month, third-party investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct and misuse of public funds.
Specifically, Vergne and another employee were accused of waiving or discounting permit fees totaling more than $150,000; submitting $43,000 worth of false claims for pay and overtime; hiring and paying a part-time city employee an extra $23,000 as an outside contractor to do work he was doing as part of his regular job; and making more than $4,500 of personal purchases using a city credit card.
Vergne doesn’t deny many of the allegations, saying certain things he did for several years with the belief that if his actions were questionable someone would have confronted him.
He has since filed a claim for damages against the city in excess of $5 million for defamation, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy and wrongful termination.
As the city undergoes a fee study to address some of the issues that led to Vergne’s firing, Edelbrock said he plans to focus on the gray areas of facility usage for events such as memorials, fundraisers and school celebrations, especially at Powerhouse Community Center.
“I’m all about that continuing to be a mixed-use facility,” he said. “We’re all about finding that balance. We’re not trying to make money off of that facility. We’re just trying to help sustain it with some of the revenues that are coming in.
“So someone using it, for example, for a completely commercial endeavor to try to raise money for a business or for a business meeting … or who doesn’t reside here in Del Mar, they’re going to be at the top of the fees,” Edelbrock said. “But all the local, nonprofit community groups in Del Mar, they’re not paying usage fees and there’s no plans for something like that to discontinue.
“There are some specifics I would hope that we take a look at in the future, like schools for things like end-of-the-season banquets,” he added. “Memorials have been a question mark.”
He said his biggest challenge right now is timing.
“It doesn’t seem like it, but we have summer right around the corner so I’m assembling the team to make sure we have the right people in the right positions, reorganizing if necessary,” Edelbrock said.
Summer temperatures during his first weekend in his new position had Edelbrock working as an administrator as well as a hands-on lifeguard.
“We’ve had next to no reprieve,” he said. “I’ve had more than a full plate.”
But the reception has been great, he added.
“It calms a lot of questions and anxiety that has existed with the staff not knowing which direction we were going to go, what type of leader they were going to end up with,” he said. “I received a lot of support during the process.”
Despite a petition with more than 200 signatures from people who demanded Vergne be returned to the position, Edelbrock said he’s received “great feedback around town.”
“I’m certain people have their opinions but I have a job that I’ve done over the last 25-plus years, and that’s to support the city, the policies, the procedures, the laws and make sure I have the right team to get that done,” he said.
“I have an open mind, I have an open door, and I’m always willing to communicate with anyone in the community that has questions and concerns,” Edelbrock added. “I’m hoping people will recognize my face and realize that I’ve done a lot of good work. I learned a lot from Pat, the things that he was good at. But I have my own style.”