DEL MAR — The Del Mar Union School District board of trustees appointed former trustee Alan Kholos to a vacant board seat on April 11 following a nearly-two hour debate that, for a while, looked like it might result in a deadlock.
Nine candidates put their names forward to fill the seat left vacant by former Trustee Scott Wooden, a 12-year board member who resigned in February after news surfaced of his recent arrest in Florida for soliciting a sex worker.
While four years remain in the term for that seat, the election code states that an appointee can only serve until the next regularly scheduled election, which is in 2024. At that time, constituents will elect a candidate to serve out the remaining two years of the term.
Kholos, a business attorney, was one of two applicants with previous experience on the Del Mar school board after he was elected to a four-year term in 2012 but resigned in 2015 after his job moved him overseas.
Kholos expressed gratitude for being able to return to the board.
“When an opportunity like this comes up to work with people I like, and I know, and to step up and be immediately effective, I went for it,” Kholos said. “I was originally elected and served out two and a half years … now, I’ll get to fill out a full four years.”
After interviewing five candidates at its April 11 meeting, the four-person board struggled to find consensus over who to appoint, facing the possibility of going to a costly special election if they failed to make an appointment supported by at least three votes.
Trustees Gee Wah Mok and Erica Halpern advocated heavily for Kholos, noting his previous board experience and fiscal responsibility. While Doug Rafner and Katherine Fitzpatrick agreed he would do a good job, they preferred other candidates.
Rafner pushed for the appointment of Darren Gretler, who was previously appointed to the board from 2015 to 2016. Gretler not only had similar experience to Kholos, Rafner said, but could add a voice from the district’s southern portion not currently represented on the board.
“I think the people on the south side of the district need a little bit of representation,” Rafner said.
Fitzpatrick refused to vote in support of anyone but Danielle Roybal, a district parent who was a runner-up in the 2022 board election and drew a wide swath of community support for the appointment, including over 100 letters to board members.
“For me, I think the choice is Danielle Roybal. I think that we ran a really strong campaign just several months ago, and you’ve shown a tremendous passion for this district,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’ve gotten a lot of emails over the last few weeks. We would be remiss not to consider the people supporting Danielle.”
Fitzpatrick’s motion to appoint Roybal never received a second from the board.
Roybal previously indicated that if the board did not appoint her, community members would gather the approximately 500 needed signatures to force a special election, which she said was still a possibility.
“To me, it’s disappointing that the board did not act on the public’s request, one, because I was the runner up in the election, and the letters sent to the board clearly communicated that they wanted me to be appointed,” Roybal said.
After an initial vote to appoint Kholos failed 2-2, with Fitzpatrick and Rafner dissenting, board members debated back and forth on how to proceed. Rafner tried unsuccessfully to convince Mok and Halpern to support Gretler while they urged him to join a majority vote for Kholos.
“You’re gonna force me at the risk of having a special election. You’re weighing that on my back,” said Rafner. “At what point do we say ‘uncle?’”
“Sometimes it makes sense to go with what more people prefer,” Halpern said. “It is an interim role. Our responsibility is to put into that seat tonight someone who can hold the seat for the next two years and do a good job.”
The board eventually called a second vote for Kholos around 8 p.m. When Rafner was called to make his vote, he sat in silence for several moments before voting in favor.
Kholos was sworn into office just moments after.
Laddan Hashemian and Greg Hodosevich were also interviewed. Hank Alexander, Loren Henry and Will Rhett submitted applications but were not present at the meeting, and Randy Satterburg withdrew his application.