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Six candidates running for three available seats on the Rancho Santa Fe Association Board pictured from left: Rachel Leheny, Janet Danola, Allen Finkelson, Terry Peay, Rachel Laffer and Kenneth Markstein, make presentations on May 11. Photo by Christina Macone-Greene
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RSFA board candidates give presentations at annual meeting

At the Rancho Santa Fe Association’s annual meeting on May 12, members of the Covenant heard a total of six candidate presentations, which were clocked at three minutes each.

While the ballots were already sent to members, the presentations afforded those in attendance with the opportunity to learn both the accomplishments and intent of the candidates.

Three seats on the Rancho Santa Fe Association (RSFA) board are available and the outgoing directors are Heather Slosar, Philip Wilkinson, and Jerry Yahr. Member votes must be received no later than June 13 at 5 p.m.

The order of the candidate speakers consisted of Rachel Leheny, Kenneth Markstein, Terry Peay, Allen Finkelson, Rachel Laffer and Janet Danola.

Leheny, with a professional background in biotechnology, has lived in Rancho Santa Fe with her family for the last 13 years.

“I’ve been involved with the community mostly for my kids and their schools. Now with my kids almost grown, I’d like to get involved from a more adult perspective, and that’s why I’m running for the board,” she said.

Leheny told members that she co-founded and led a biotech venture fund.

“I was also a founding board member of a San Diego nonprofit called Clearity Foundation that helps cancer patients get personalized treatment for their cancer,” she said.

Leheny went on to say that she thought that her business experience, combined with her love for the history and beauty of the Ranch, would be an additive to the RSFA board of directors. She also pointed out that she had the pleasure to run with two extremely talented and independently-minded candidates who in Laffer and Peay.

“We are in complete agreement on our support of the current board, and we’re committed to continuing to the immense progress that the board has made in the past several years,” she said, adding that the cornerstone of their position was transparency and inclusiveness.

Next up was candidate Markstein, who has lived in the Ranch with his family for 29 years. He told his fellow members that he believed that listening skills, honesty, trust, the ability to build a community consensus were some of the qualities that people look for in a board member.

“I think it’s safe to say that we all feel that we portray those qualities, all six of us,” he said, referring to the other candidates. “We all support fiber optics. We all support better cell service without 90 foot towers. We all want to work on alternate water systems.”

And he added that they all want to maintain their rural heritage.

Markstein believed that he stood out as a candidate by being the past president of the Covenant Design Review Committee (CDRC), the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club and more recently the Rancho Riding Club. He conveyed that it was his experience and proven leadership which made a difference.

“I’m not the beholden to anyone,” Markstein said. “The only group I’m beholden to is the community.”

Markstein told the members that if they want to learn more about the kind of person he was, he recommended that they meet with staff and other board members he has served with over the years.

Peay said one of the primary reasons his family moved to the Ranch in 2011 was because of the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club.

“It was the crown jewel of the Ranch and we wanted to become members there,” he said. “We feel honored and blessed to be living in this community.”

Having been in the real estate industry for more than 40 years, Peay also noted how for the last 28 of them he oversaw and operated a large diversified real estate development company based in Washington D.C.

“I’ve built high rise office buildings, multi-family housing, retirement communities in Florida, hotels, restaurants, and I also built large residential golf course communities,” he said.

Peay took part as HOA president of Augustine North, an expansive residential community with a recognized championship golf course on site.

He also served on several homeowner associations as well as being president on occasion.

“One of my primary jobs was to educate incoming board members about their fiduciary obligations and responsibilities to serve the community,” he said.

Peay went on to say that a board member’s primary job is to facilitate the community’s goals and objectives.

Next in line was Finkelson who moved to Rancho Santa Fe full time with his wife in 2012 after he retired from his longstanding career in law in New York City. Finkelson noted that his professional background in representing boards for numerous corporations would be helpful to the RSFA board of directors.

“I made my own decision to run. I was not selected by nor do I owe anyone anything,” he said, adding how he would represent the entire membership. “And the only reason I have decided to run is simple. My professional career has made me an expert in how boards should function.”

Finkelson said he thought he could help the board become better at soliciting, listening, and making well-informed decisions as it has made countless missteps.

“This election is not about the past as some have alleged. That is pure nonsense or should I say hogwash. This election is about the future,” he said. “Help is not going to come from the three ‘Ann Fans,’” he said. “Help is spelled Allen, Janet and Ken.”

Laffer, a third generation RSF resident is raising her child, a fourth generation RSF resident. Laffer described her fond memories living in the Ranch remembering the times with her grandparents.

“I enjoyed my childhood here. And I remember how the Village and the Ranch looked back then, and that’s very important,” she said. “I have a very strong respect for the history of this community.

Laffer, a current board member of the RSF Community Center, noted that her strong communicative background comes from her writing and editorial expertise, as well as serving in senior executive roles with investment management companies overseas. Currently, she works with her family’s business.

“I just want to say that whatever comes from this election, I have enjoyed meeting so many people that I would never come across in my everyday life or everyday activities,” she said. “I’m really proud to be your neighbor.”

She called her fellow candidates as ones with incredibly diverse backgrounds.

“And I think that’s what makes our community so special,” she said. “I’d like to think that I can bridge the gap between the past and the present, and move us toward the future.”

Last to speak was Danola, who has lived in the Ranch with her husband since 2012. Her professional expertise is in accounting which she said could be a significant addition to the board.

While the Association has made great strides in financial accounting, she said, they still have ways to go.

“In the past year, I’ve probably been to more board meetings than anyone else including the board members,” she quipped.

By doing this, she has been able to observe firsthand how the board operates and determined how it can be improved.

“Like Allen and Ken, I am an independent candidate with my own thoughts,” she said.

At first glance, Danola said, the six candidates may look like they are running on the same platform. But there were items that set them apart. She explained that her “three opponents” wanted to move on with business as usual. But Danola thought otherwise, highlighting the need to correct missteps and rekindle confidence in the board.

“Homeowners don’t like surprises,” she said.

Danola promoted more town hall meetings, surveys, community involvement and communication.

Following the presentations, candidates took part in a question and answer series.