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Outgoing longtime City Council members lauded

DEL MAR — After more than two decades of combined City Council service, Mayor Richard Earnest and Councilwoman Crystal Crawford stepped down Dec. 7, but not before receiving resolutions of appreciation, words of praise from community and staff members and a variety of gifts, both traditional and new.
Sworn in Dec. 1, 1998, Crawford never missed a council meeting. She set a perfect-attendance record during her 12 years of service, attending 497 council meetings. Crawford ran unsuccessfully for the 74th District Assembly seat in the Nov. 2 election and said she plans to run again in 2012.
“You’re one of those bright lights,” City Manager Karen Brust said. “You give so much. Your heart is as a public servant.
“I hope that you continue to give and give and give because you have so much to offer to this country, to this state, to this region,” Brust said.
Earnest began his first term Sept. 16, 1996, and was re-elected in 2000. He decided not to run in 2004, but returned to the council by appointment in 2007 after the late Jerry Finnell stepped down for health reasons.
“That’s perhaps the best thing I’ve done here for him,” Earnest said. “I am truly honored to have served the rest of his term.”
Brust described Earnest as “calm” and “fair-minded.”
“You really try to look at both sides of a situation and you are very balanced,” she said. “You love the community and you very much love your family.
“You bring that and it helps us as a department, as a team, as a city because we realize you care about us as a family as well,” she said.
Former Councilman Henry Abarbanel said he came to thank Earnest and Crawford and to apologize “for lying to each of you about how easy this job is.”
“I also want to add my thanks to Crystal and Richard for taking a whole lot of time out of their lives to serve the public, especially Richard coming back, having to serve out the term of Jerry Finnell,” former Councilman Dave Druker said. “It was, in some ways, above and beyond what was called for.”
He also welcomed Crawford “to a very exclusive club.”
“Three-time elected council member,” he said. “I don’t think there are very many of those.”
“I’m going to miss you guys,” Councilman Carl Hilliard said. “I’ve never been associated with a finer group, ever, and I want to thank you.”
During their council tenure, Earnest and Crawford have been instrumental in a variety of major city projects, including the purchase of the Shores property to secure the site as open space, the sale of a vacant lot on Balboa Avenue to fund that purchase and the ongoing rehabilitation and seismic retrofit of the North Torrey Pines Bridge.
They have also played roles in revitalizing downtown and, most recently, been involved in negotiating a proposal with the state to buy the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Both have served multiple times as mayor, a rotating position in the city.
A retired Navy officer, Earnest began the Dec. 7 meeting by saying the Pledge of Allegiance in honor of Pearl Harbor, “for all of them who gave it all.”
The meeting ended with the installation of first-time council members Terry Sinnott and Lee Haydu, who received some parting advice.
Keep an open mind, open hearts, “trust your gut and always speak your piece,” Crawford said.
“Ultimately you’re here to serve the people out there,” Earnest said. “Listen to what they say. …
Study both sides, think about what everybody’s saying … and make your own decision for the good of the community.”
Before presenting Earnest and Crawford with engraved outrigger paddles from the Community Services Department, Director Pat Vergne said, “It has been terrible. I don’t know what else to say.
“All kidding aside,” he added, “it has been fantastic. You guys have supported us ever since you came into office and we really do appreciate it.”
On behalf of the Public Works Department, David Scherer maintained tradition by presenting them with personalized street signs — Crystal Court and Earnest Way.
Scherer said Crawford’s sign should read Torrey Pines Bridge Way for the “countless hours” she dedicated to that project.
They also received jackets from the Fire Department with patches from Solana Beach, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe and Encinitas, the four cities included in a fire services management agreement formed last year.
Earnest and Crawford also thanked the community.
“You get a lot of credit for what we do up here because you push us, you challenge us, and you make us better all the time,” Earnest said. “I applaud you for being who you are and I will be really happy to join you.”