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Mayors switch in coast cities

COAST CITIES — It was the passing of the gavel in Del Mar and Solana Beach, the two smallest cities in San Diego and the only ones that still appoint rather than elected their mayors. 

In Del Mar, Terry Sinnott ceded the position to Lee Haydu, who had been serving as deputy mayor. Al Corti replaces her.

Sinnott and Haydu were sworn in together and began serving their first terms on City Council in December 2010.

“Our council has worked effectively, I think, as a team for the betterment of our community,” Sinnott said. “We all have different views. We express those views, but we eventually come to an agreement.”

Sinnott, who was completing his first term as mayor, highlighted some accomplishments during his tenure, including partnering with the Del Mar Fairgrounds to work on affordable housing, a joint cost-of-service study and a traffic-control study.

Lee Haydu
Lee Haydu

There was also a renewed focus on building a new City Hall. Del Mar voiced support for additional horse race meets in the fall and took firm positions on gun shows, One Paseo and San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Del Mar approved a citywide sidewalk improvement plan, received state certification for an

updated housing element, created guidelines for mobile food trucks and established an in-lieu parking fee.

Del Mar also received approval to design a new wastewater pipeline from the 21st Street Pump Station to Solana Beach for an annual potential savings of $113,000.

“Del Mar has always been at the short end of the bargaining stick when it comes to our sheriff’s contract,” Sinnott said before noting the city now has specific recommendations to improve service or create its own force if that is unsuccessful.

Faced with an unfunded pension liability of $9 million, the city agreed to pay off the $3 million side-fund to save $1 million in interest and established a reserve fund to eliminate its unfunded liability in 15 years.

Corti and Sinnott also won the annual turf bocce ball championship with a victory over Solana Beach.

“I want to thank city staff and my fellow council members for their hard work and dedication to Del Mar,” Sinnott said. “It has been a good year.”

Haydu noted that Sinnott led the city in 26 flag salutes, four workshops, three meetings that were shorter than expected and two that went longer than anticipated.

“(He) left a legacy to future mayors as to how to handle the position professionally, objectively and productively,” Haydu said. “Thank you for all your service.”

Former Councilwoman Crystal Crawford commended Sinnott for his “statesmanlike and very professional service.

“Terry has continued our tradition of having such excellent leadership on a regional basis,” Crawford said.

Haydu is looking forward to leading the city for the first time. “But in Del Mar, everyone is mayor,” she said.

Tom Campbell
Tom Campbell

At the Dec. 11 Solana Beach meeting, Mike Nichols completed his second term as mayor, while Tom Campbell began his fifth. Lesa Heebner was appointed deputy mayor.

“It’s been an honor and a real pleasure and a privilege to be up here and serve as your mayor the last year,” Nichols said. “It’s a team up here. We do a lot of work together, and I think we all work very well together.”

Nichols thanked city staff and his wife, Heather, “not only for putting up with me, but all this time I spend doing this City Council stuff on weekends and nights.”

“You never complain and you’re very supportive and I appreciate that,” he said.

“You did an outstanding job this year,” Campbell said. “There’s been some difficult issues, and you did a really great job of reaching out to the community.”

The half dozen residents who spoke highlighted some of the city’s accomplishments with Nichols at the helm, most notably completion of the Coast Highway 101 revitalization project and receiving a certified land use plan from the state.

“I just can’t imagine being happier with a mayor than I am with Mike,” resident Marilee McLean said, crediting Nichols with helping to expand the Flex on-demand bus service to the east side of the city.

Torgen Johnson lauded him for taking a stand against San Onofre at a Nuclear Regulatory Commission meeting.

Jim Jaffee, noting Nichols is the second surfing mayor, but first regular foot, thanked him for beach improvements that include a project to replace the access stairs at Del Mar Shores that is just getting under way.

“You were really good before, but you’ve really grown,” City Manager David Ott said. “You’ve really matured as a leader.

“He truly, truly is devoted to this community,” Ott said. “He loves this community and he loves the people that he serves. Sometimes passion isn’t a strong enough word for you.”

County Supervisor Dave Roberts, a former Solana Beach councilman, presented both outgoing mayors with proclamations from the county declaring Dec. 9, 2013, Terry Sinnott Day and Dec. 11, 2013, Mike Nichols Day.

“We like to honor folks within San Diego County that really go above and beyond,” he said.

“You did a phenomenal job this year,” he told Sinnott. “If there’s anything I can do at the county of San Diego don’t hesitate to ask,” he said to Haydu.

“When people around this county ask me … how I would describe different mayors, I always describe you as the gentleman mayor,” Roberts said to Nichols. “You’re always so nice. You’re calm. You’re respectful.

“You have done a great job,” Roberts said. “It really is a great council that we have here in Solana Beach.”

In Encinitas, the mayoral position was appointed for the last time Dec. 10. That city will begin electing its mayor in 2014.