SOLANA BEACH — From a field of 120 applicants during two recruitment efforts in the past year, Greg Wade was selected as the new city manager, replacing David Ott, who retired from the position twice in the last five years.
Wade, 50, is currently the assistant city manager and community development director for Imperial Beach, a city similar to Solana Beach but with a population about twice its size.
“We found a really good one,” Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner said. “It was important that he has Coastal Commission experience, which he has. It was important that he has Army Corps (of Engineering) experience, and he has.
“It was important that he understood a small coastal city that is trying to balance development needs with maintaining the quality of life and scale of what’s here already,” she added. “He gets that. Another thing that’s great about him is he was a lifeguard so he understands that group and public safety.
“He also understands an engaged community,” Heebner said. “All those were in place. He’ll understand us. I think he’s just a really good fit.”
“It’s flattering to be selected out of that many people,” said Wade, who has been with Imperial Beach since 2001, serving as assistant city manager for the past four years. “As coastal cities we face a lot of the same issues. We share the desire to maintain a small-scale community character. We deal with coastal erosion issues. We deal with the Coastal Commission. We deal with environmental protection.
“Those are important elements of both of our communities,” he added. “I’m looking forward to working in another coastal city with a very active and engaged community. … It just seemed like a good fit and a logical step in my career. I’m excited about it.”
He said both cities also maintain firefighting and lifeguard divisions and contract with the county Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement.
Ott began working for Solana Beach in 2003 as fire chief and director of public safety. He was named deputy city manager in 2005 and city manager the following year.
He first announced his retirement in late 2010 but returned the following January as interim city manager. He was rehired that December under a two-year contract with an option for a one-year extension.
When he announced his second retirement in May 2014 the city began actively looking for a replacement. Several candidates were interviewed but council could not reach consensus on a candidate.
Ott agreed to return again as interim city manager this past December. New proposals were solicited and the city opted to work with Ralph Andersen & Associates, the same company Carlsbad used in its search for a city manager last year.
Heebner said that search yielded six potential candidates. The field was narrowed to three before Wade was unanimously selected.
Wade grew up in Pasadena and moved to San Diego in 1984 to attend the University of California San Diego, where he earned a degree in urban studies and planning.
He said he did not apply for the Solana Beach city manager position last year because he was working on several projects in Imperial Beach.
“I honestly was just not in a place where I felt good about leaving at that point because there were too many things going on,” he said. “I managed to get them to a place earlier this year so this possibility seemed like something I wanted to do.”
Wade said he had opportunities in other jurisdictions such as Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo, but his “heart wasn’t really in it because I wanted to stay in San Diego County.”
“Solana Beach is beautiful,” he said. “I get to further my career in a place that I love. Who wouldn’t want to do that?”
City Council is scheduled to approve Wade’s employment agreement at the May 13 meeting. His start date is June 22.
This story has been updated since its original posting.