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Eight applicants seek Carlsbad’s vacant District 2 seat

CARLSBAD — Eight residents have submitted applications for the District 2 council seat left vacant after Keith Blackburn was elected mayor in November.

Steven Ahlquist, Josh Coelho, Bill Fowler, Jamie Jacobs, Carolyn Luna, Brian Peeling, Thomas Powers and Tiffany Weber will be considered during a special City Council meeting on Feb. 15.

Absent from the list of applicants was Lela Panagides, who was approached to fill the vacancy prior to the election as part of an effort to elect Blackburn, multiple sources familiar with the matter told The Coast News in October.

Residents of District 2 have until Feb. 8 to submit questions or topics for the council to ask applicants during the appointment process. None of the council members are permitted to contact applicants since the Feb. 2 deadline has passed.

During the special meeting, each applicant will have a four-minute oral presentation, and appointing a new member requires a simple majority out of the four current members.

If no appointment is made by Feb. 24, the seat will go up for a special election on Nov. 7, costing the city between $240,000 to $500,000. If an appointment is made, the successful candidate cannot run for reelection in 2024.

Four of the applicants currently sit on city commissions — Coelho and Fowler (Traffic and Mobility), Luna (Planning), and Jacobs (Historic Preservation). In addition, Jacobs and Fowler are alternates on the Carlsbad Tomorrow: Growth Management Citizens Committee.

Ahlquist is a 1969 graduate of Carlsbad High School and spent 38 years in financial services, including 10 years in senior management, and worked as an executive director of resource ministry at one of San Diego’s “mega-churches.” He said growth and traffic are the two most pressing issues in the city.

Coelho is a former U.S. Marine and currently works as the director of project management for the Irvine Company Apartments. Before the Irvine Company, he worked for the Clark Construction Group, where he managed the engineering disciplines of the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood.

Coelho said traffic, homelessness, housing crisis, airport, beach and Coast Highway corridor are some of the city’s most critical issues.

Fowler ran for City Council in 2016 and worked as a computer specialist for the Rand Corporation, along with stints at a research institute at UCLA, as an independent consultant and retired as a manager with Accenture, a global consulting firm. He also holds a doctorate in international relations from USC.

With just a two-year term, Fowler said his ability would be limited, but some critical issues are housing, development, traffic safety, parks, open space and homelessness.

Jacobs is a co-founder of Gig Talent, which provides human resource and coaching solutions for other businesses and co-author of the book, “Designing Exceptional Organizational Cultures, along with being a professor at USC’s Bovard College master’s in human resources management program.

The issues at the top of her list include infrastructure, traffic safety, multi-modal transportation, sustainability, affordable housing, open space and homelessness.

Luna spent more than 30 years in government administration with Riverside County and retired in 2015. She was the deputy director of economic development, executive director for the Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency and environmental programs director, to name a few positions she held.

Peeling is the vice president of construction for the William Warren Group in Coast Mesa and former head coach of the San Diego State women’s club college soccer team. He’s also worked with companies such as JMI and the Irvine Company on projects like Petco Park, Omni Hotel in downtown San Diego and the Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

Peeling said crime, such as an increase in breaking-and-entering cases, e-bikes, small businesses, and local residence assistance due to COVID-19 lockdowns are some of the most pressing issues.

Powers is an artist and arts educator, including a stint as an adjunct art professor at Palomar College and a property manager in Sacramento. He said beach erosion and coastal development are the most pressing issues in the city, followed by taking schools online, sustainability, gentrification and revitalizing the Barrio neighborhood.

Weber is a former small business owner and lived in Hong Kong for three years before returning to California and acting in community theater. She said the most pressing issues are affordable housing, school funding, emergency services, social programs and promoting growth for local businesses.

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