SOLANA BEACH — Lesa Heebner, who previously served as a city council member from 2004 to 2016, including three terms as mayor, was unanimously appointed at an April 11 meeting to complete the remaining eight-month term of Mike Nichols. Heebner was chosen from a field of seven applicants following Nichols’ unexpected resignation from City Council last month.
“Since my retirement in 2016, I’ve kept up with all council actions so I am up-to-date on the current issues,” said Heebner, who did not seek re-election two years ago after serving three consecutive terms, including three years in the rotating mayoral position. “I have a strong working knowledge of the duties and responsibilities of a council member.
“I am honored to be serving the residents of Solana Beach again,” she added. “There are serious issues facing our city that challenge our beachside character and thus our financial sustainability. My commitment to the well-being of Solana Beach is as strong as ever, and I will work hard to maintain the things we love about our city.”
Those issues include a switch from at-large to district-based elections and several large developments, Heebner said.
Other applicants included Shannon Kearns, Craig Nelson, Robert Secrest, Paul Basore and former Councilmen Joe Kellejian and Dave Powell.
“I want to serve only because I love this community and I understand the process,” said Kellejian, who served as mayor five times during his five-term, 20-year council tenure before he retired in 2012. “Lesa Heebner is certainly qualified for this position. I also think I’m uniquely qualified. … I, too, have kept up.”
Resident Tracy Richmond said Solana Beach is “fortunate as heck” to have so many well-qualified applicants. Richmond said he supported Heebner because her council retirement was more recent.
“She’s going to be able to hit the ground running,”Richmond said. “I think she also shares the same types of outlook on the environment and the values with regard to this city that Mike Nichols possesses.”
Councilwoman Jewel Edson agreed.
“It’s brave and actually quite nice that we have such qualified applicants,” she said, adding that Heebner “appears to be most able to fill the role for Mike Nichols.”
“She’s more current in her … service than former mayor and council member Kellejian and she does share the goals and values of council member Nichols, which I think is quite important in this case,” Edson added. “He asked in his resignation that that happen.”
In his resignation letter, Nichols stated he was stepping down “to handle pressing family matters.”
Nichols asked his former colleagues to appoint someone who would maintain his commitment to protect the quality of life in Solana Beach, continue the city’s path of environmental sustainability and “resist the pressures of over-development that can threaten the character of our small beach community.”
Less than a month after his resignation, Mayor Ginger Marshall stepped down with no explanation on April 5.
Council members at the April 11 meeting decided to use the same process to appoint her replacement. The application period was open from noon April 12 until 5 p.m. April 19.
A candidate is scheduled to be appointed, sworn in and seated at the April 25 meeting, even though Councilman Dave Zito said he would prefer to wait until May 9 for the latter “to give the person plenty of time to come up to speed.”
“It seems like we really need to move forward even though I’m not in favor of hurrying,” Councilwoman Judy Hegenauer said. “But I feel like we need to get back to some sort of normalcy, and the only way I can see to do that is by a similar process.”
Resident Gary Garber said his hope was that Heebner and Kellejian would fill the two vacancies.
Kellejian said he plans to reapply.
“I have the qualifications, experience and know how to serve Solana Beach for this short term,” Kellejian said. “Residents, family and friends have encouraged me to submit my application.”
The action agenda for the March 28 meeting, during which the process to replace Nichols was decided, states, “The appointed candidate will agree to fill the vacancy until the end of the term, December 12, 2018, and to not run in the November 6, 2018 General Election.”
There is no such language in the action agenda for April 11, nor was there a discussion to include that requirement during the council meeting. However, the term will expire in December as Marshall’s first term on council was set to end this year, as was Nichols’.