ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council unanimously tapped Brian Grover to serve on the city’s traffic and public safety commission after Mayor Kristin Gaspar’s nomination for the position failed.
In Encinitas, the elected mayor has the sole authority to make nominations to the city’s advisory commissions, such as the planning and traffic and public safety boards.
A divided council rejected Gaspar’s nomination of Joe Bunn, a private public safety contractor and longtime local fire chief, who, Gaspar said, would provide a unique skill set to the current commission complement. Following a brief recess, the council reconvened and Gaspar offered up Grover’s name for appointment, and the council voted 5-0 to appoint him.
After a round of interviews at the Dec. 10 council meeting, three of the council members — Lisa Shaffer, Tony Kranz and Catherine Blakespear — signaled support for Grover, the chairman of the Encinitas Bike and Pedestrian Committee, better known as Bike/Walk Encinitas. Mark Muir, however, voiced support for Bunn.
Gaspar, at the Dec. 17 council meeting, said she also would support Bunn, which she believed would provide the commission with public-safety experience that is currently lacking on the seven-member panel.
“When we talk about filling positions on our commissions, I feel strongly that we have to have a certain balance happening on our commissions,” Gaspar said. “I feel strongly that Joe Bunn…possesses a very unique skillset, qualification and experience that we haven’t seen apply yet to our commission, and I don’t believe that skillset will come along every day.”
Gaspar said traffic commissioners have commented in the past that they didn’t feel qualified to make decisions regarding public safety and needed additional assistance from city staff to help guide their decision-making process. Bunn’s experience would reduce the commission’s reliance on staff, she said.
The council entertained the idea of appointing Bunn to a vacancy recently created by Blakespear’s departure or moving another commissioner into that slot and appointing Bunn to the open slot, but City Attorney Glenn Sabine advised against it.
“You would have to change the municipal code,” Sabine said, effectively ending the discussion.
The council, however, did signal that they would appoint Bunn to the earliest possible vacancy.