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Terry Sinnott. Photo via Facebook
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Councilman Terry Sinnott won’t seek re-election, citing ‘polarized’ community

DEL MAR — After eight years on City Council, Terry Sinnott recently announced he will not seek re-election in November.

“Two terms are enough for any sane person,” he wrote in a July 1 email to friends and supporters. “The political atmosphere in Del Mar has become too polarized for me to enjoy the work.

“Plus, I have been able to work with my colleagues and accomplish much of what I set out to do in 2010,” he added.

During his tenure the city built a new City Hall complex, sidewalks throughout Del Mar, a somewhat controversial roundabout on Jimmy Durante Boulevard and a walking path to the Grand Avenue Bridge.

Other accomplishments include passing a half-cent transaction fee to help fund utility undergrounding and other high-priority projects, developing a master plan for Shores Park, establishing a public arts program, setting aside funds for paying down employee pensions and starting a downtown streetscape improvement project.

He said he is most proud of the civic center complex, an $18.5 million project dedicated June 30 that was completed on time and within budget.

“It really is a wonderful asset to the community,” Sinnott said. “I’m also very proud of our financial situation and our Finance Committee, a very strong group of folks that have been providing a good objective analysis of how we move forward financially.

“I’ve worked hard to get that group to be a big asset to the community,” he added.

He said one project that has moved slower than he anticipated is strengthening the city’s law enforcement.

“Because of the influx of visitors that we get every summer and the number of people coming to Del Mar, we need stronger, more community-oriented policing than we have been getting,” Sinnott said.

He and his colleagues are slated to weigh in on a recommendation, possibly this month, from the city manager about whether Del Mar should create its own police department or pay for more services from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.

An analysis several years ago by the Finance Committee concluded Del Mar, which doesn’t have a lot of high-priority crimes, was spending a lot of money for “a high level of service for low-priority calls,” he said.

According to committee members, the best option was for Del Mar to create a standalone police department.

“Financially, that’s a better solution,” he said. “It would give us more community-oriented policing (and) our resources would stay in Del Mar and not be dispatched to other communities. But if that’s not a solution the community can support, we have to spend more money with the sheriff to get more police officers in the community.”

Sinnott served as mayor, a position that rotates annually in Del Mar, in 2013 and 2017. During the latter the Del Mar Fairgrounds, located in the city, hosted the Breeders’ Cup successfully for the first time.

But that year also saw its share of controversy. Sinnott was consistently on the losing end of 4-1 votes for an ordinance that severely restricted short-term rentals in most residential neighborhoods and split the community.

He supported the firing of Pat Vergne, the city’s longtime and well-liked community services director and chief lifeguard, after he was accused of misusing public funds and workplace misconduct.

Over the years the community was also divided on decisions regarding sea-level rise and anything to do with dogs on beaches or at Shores Park.

“I think since November 2016 the community has gotten more polarized,” he said. “It just seems a shame that we couldn’t have come to some solution through more of a dialogue.

“It seems that the atmosphere has changed,” he added. “It probably reflects the mood of the community, for one. And it probably reflects leadership on the council, number two.”

Sinnott, who chose not to elaborate on those comments, said he ran for City Council in 2010 because “there was a frustration that we weren’t, as a city, getting a lot done.”

“We were talking a lot,” he said. “We were discussing things. But we weren’t really implementing things. So, I’m proud of the fact that … our councils have been able to really get a lot done over the last eight years.”

Sinnott thanked the community for the opportunity to serve the city, something he still plans to do in other capacities.

“I’m retiring from the council, but I’m not retiring from active participation in the city,” he said.

“I have enjoyed working with Terry Sinnott on council,” Mayor Dwight Worden said. “While in some situations we have found ourselves on opposite ends of the policy spectrum, I have come to know Terry as a team player and as an intelligent and respected advocate for the positions he believes best serve our city.

“I wish him well in his retirement from the council,” added Worden, who is also up for re-election in November. “As for my own situation, I expect to be making an announcement shortly.”