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Departing mayor touts city’s health in final State of the City

SAN MARCOS — Mayor Jim Desmond stood in front of about 250 people inside the ballroom at the Cal State San Marcos University Student Union and proudly declared his belief that he will leave the city as good, if not better off, than his predecessors.

Desmond, in his final “State of the City” address before he terms out of office later this year, touted the city’s successes in the fields of governance, business education and public safety.

San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond is winding down his time in office because of term limits. Courtesy photo

“When I was first elected mayor … one of the things that came through when I looked about San Marcos was how much potential we had and (what) great shape (the) city was in. They left a really solid foundation for myself and for councils to come, and what stuck in my head was … also to leave it in just as good or a better spot, and we have done that.”

Voters elected Desmond mayor in 2006 after two years on the City Council. San Marcos rules, however, only allow elected officials to serve three consecutive terms before reaching term limits.

He has been actively campaigning for the District 5 supervisor position, which is currently held by Bill Horn, who is also terming out of office after five terms. Horn has endorsed Desmond to replace him.

Desmond in his speech highlighted the city’s fiscally conservative policies, which he said has allowed the city to invest in its infrastructure.

“Not spending more than we take in, I know that’s wacky for government,” Desmond said. “And we always have strong reserves.”

A pilot by trade, Desmond compared the city’s fiscal policy to flying a plane; he would never use more fuel than he has in the tanks, Desmond said.

Looking ahead to challenges that face the city, Desmond pointed to the Creek District plan, which the city has been working on retooling for a year. Originally slated for more than 1 million square feet of retail space, the city has been working on a plan with less dedicated to retail in the wake of changing spending habits.

Desmond alluded to the city possibly shelving the plan until officials can figure out the right mix.

“In the ‘Amazon economy’ it does not work to have all that retail in the Creek District,” Desmond said. “We are going to adapt to the changing times and make sure we are flexible moving forward.”

As in previous speeches, Desmond hailed the city’s strong educational ties and the work of the city’s sheriff’s department and fire department. He also touted the city’s affordable housing, which stands at about 10 percent of the city’s total housing units.

“And you couldn’t find half of it,” Desmond said. “It’s beautiful and we make sure it’s well done.”

Desmond, a Republican, managed to sprinkle in a few partisan shots in his 30-minute speech. In discussing a conversation he had with an older pilot, he referred to him as a “crusty old pilot,” an apparent allusion to a controversial statement made by District 49 Congressional candidate Sara Jacobs about fellow Democrat Doug Applegate.

He also took a swipe at California and Washington, D.C., for their spending when discussing the city’s fiscally conservative policy.

And in another moment when discussing the city’s tax base, Desmond said that the city doesn’t have a regional mall, car dealerships and “marijuana dispensaries” to rely on for income.

Desmond finally acknowledged several other major partners, including Tri-City Hospital, Palomar Health, Solutions for Change, North County Health Services and the Chamber of Commerce, among other groups, which he said all help the city to continue to grow.

“I just want to say thank you for the honor and opportunity to be your mayor for 10 years,” Desmond concluded his speech to a standing ovation from the crowd.