CARLSBAD — Councilman Keith Blackburn seems to be popping up all over town.
Last year Blackburn retired as a sergeant with the Carlsbad Police Department as a condition of his election. He’s finding himself busier than ever.
“I made this a 40-hour-a-week job,” he said. “I spend a lot of time meeting with residents who want to discuss issues … People joke that I should have a private table at Marie Callender’s.”
Blackburn continues to work as a reserve patrol officer, without the paycheck.
He also volunteers with Meals On Wheels and the County of San Diego Department of Animal Services.
Blackburn’s involvement with the shelter stems from his experience as head of the police department’s canine unit. When his partner, Diego, retired in 1994, the Blackburns kept him as a family pet until his death.
“I loved that dog so much that it took eight or nine years to get another dog,” he said.
That special dog was Terry, a stray pit bull mix, unhousebroken, and unnoticed by the public.
Then came Dusty, a 7-month purebred pit bull with a heart murmur who was so anemic that he couldn’t walk.
Last year, the plight of 10 pit bulls housed at the shelter as evidence for a pending court case involving a fighting ring was the
most difficult situation for Blackburn.
“They were in cages treated like evidence, not dogs,” he said. “No one was able to walk them. Then (director) Laurie Joniaux called the DA’s office and said that one of the volunteers was a full-time police officer. That way the dogs could be walked and the chain of custody wouldn’t be compromised.”
Six dogs were euthanized for aggression. Two were taken by Pit Bull Rescue. Blackburn fostered the ninth, which his daughter Kristin adopted. The 10th dog was adopted by a family.
“Of all the dogs at the shelter, pit bulls are the most loving,” Blackburn said. “Rather than being critical of the dogs we need to be critical of the owners.”
Blackburn credits his grandfather, William, with instilling a passion for community service. After his grandfather’s death, he became president of the Blackburn Foundation, which has subsequently donated more than $1 million to the Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA and the Make a Wish Foundation.
Blackburn also donates his council salary to the Boys & Girls Club and YMCA as well as the Bread of Life Rescue Mission, Angel’s Depot, Carlsbad Senior Center, Shelter Pet Partners and The Dog Squad.
Recently he purchased an IV infusion pump for the county shelter.
“We knew right away that Keith was going to be a great volunteer,” Kathy King, animal care attendant, said. “He was always asking what dog needed a bath or some extra attention, regardless of breed.”
Blackburn said he is relishes his new career as a volunteer.
“I wondered why people worked for free,” he said. “I didn’t understand it until I did it. It’s addictive. There are a lot of selfish reasons.”