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Longtime city employee bids beach goodbye after nearly five decades

DEL MAR — After 47 years of wrangling loose pets, looking after the local beaches, and enforcing the city’s parking regulations, Eric Sandy is retiring from his long-held post in Del Mar.

The Cardiff resident and now former parking enforcement lieutenant worked for the city longer than any other employee. And although his stand-out memories are countless (“only a few hundred,” he said), Sandy said the highlight of his career, the reason he has opted to stay in Del Mar for over four decades, has been the people.

“More than anything it’s the people I work with — an incredible group of talented, hardworking, personable, professional people,” said Sandy, whose last day of work was July 9.

Sandy’s legacy in Del Mar began in the early 1970s, when then Del Mar lifeguard Jack Ross recommended Sandy pursue a part-time position as an animal regulation and beach enforcement officer.

In Sandy’s recollection, his response was something along the lines of: “as long as I get to hang out on the beach and get paid for it.”

What might have been a joke at the time transformed into a decades-long commitment to the city.

When Sandy took on the then “temporary” position with the Lifeguard Department, his title could be described as a “spin-off” from your average lifeguard, patrolling the beaches and returning lost dogs to their rightful owners.

“It was very low-key, very personable,” he said.

The versatility of the position ensured that Sandy was “doing a little bit of everything,” helping out the lifeguards with rescues or riding along with the Fire Department during a brush fire.

It also guaranteed that he has no shortage of eyebrow-raising, knee-slapping stories about his years in the city, whether collecting stray rattlesnakes from the beach after a flash flood or wrangling a cow that managed to float downstream and end up in a neighbor’s yard.

And as the Community Services Department expanded, so did Sandy’s responsibilities. Over the years, he transitioned into more of a law and parking enforcement role — later overseeing more than a dozen enforcement officers.

Sandy’s modus operandi as an enforcement officer was to maintain a fun, no-stress environment with as few confrontations as possible.

“We’re a vacation destination,” he said. “That whole attitude permeates everything that we do.”

As such, Sandy has developed a reputation around town for his “calm, cool and patient demeanor,” reads the city proclamation recognizing Sandy for his service.

His skills with mediation eventually led him to a part-time position with the National Conflict Resolution Center, where he continues to mediate and train others in conflict resolution. Sandy has been working at the center and in Del Mar’s Community Services Department simultaneously for the last 15 years.

He will be continuing his position at the center as he leaves his job in Del Mar behind. But he’ll still be sticking around as a beach-goer.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” he said. “I’m going to be back here quite often, but not as an employee.”

Photo Caption: Eric Sandy, 72, retired on July 9 from his position with Del Mar’s Community Services Department. Sandy has worked for the city for the past 47 years, making him the longest-running employee the city has had. Photo courtesy of the City of Del Mar’s website.

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