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No shortage of candidates in Del Mar, Solana Beach

COAST CITIES — The November ballot will give voters some choices for City Council members in the county’s two smallest cities, where in most of the last five elections there were an equal number of candidates for the available seats.

In Solana Beach, Valeri Paul, Kristi Becker, Kelly Harless, Shawn McClondon and Craig Nelson are vying to fill vacancies that will be left by Lesa Heebner and Peter Zahn, who were appointed to council earlier this year when two former colleagues whose terms would have ended in November stepped down.

Heebner and Zahn, who chose not to seek re-election in 2016, applied for the vacated seats saying they would not run in this year’s election.

Paul and her husband moved to Solana Beach 18 years ago.

“I knew we could make this place our home,” she said. “It is a perfect beach community.”

Paul said she is running for office because she likes to serve the public whenever possible and “the time seems right.”

She said it’s important to listen to residents and ensure their voices are heard, as is “finding a balance between economic growth, the infrastructure and the maintenance of the small-community culture.”

Becker is an attorney who spent her early years in Solana Beach and returned in 2011.

“It’s a great place to raise kids,” she said. “I really love the beachside charm, and I love how the city’s been developed.

“We need qualified City Council members to protect our interests,” she added. “I think I can bring a different perspective with my background in law, business and community service.”

Becker is a former member of the Parks and Recreation Commission and she currently serves on the Climate Action Commission.

She said as a council member she will work to mitigate negative impacts from a proposed resort on the bluffs just south of Solana Beach and ensure the size is appropriate. She also said it’s important that the city’s recently formed community choice energy program is successful.

Her campaign website — — is under development.

Harless is a 20-year Solana Beach resident and a former Parks and Recreation member who now serves on the View Assessment Commission.

She said one reason she decided to run for City Council is to “make sure residents still have a say in how our city is developed.”

“Development is always a big concern, especially since there aren’t many vacant lots left,” she said. “So what we do with the existing structures will always be an issue.

“We need to evolve as a community, but we need the right kind of change,” Harless added. “We need to make sure the changes don’t overly impact our quality of life with unreasonable amounts of traffic and parking problems.”

McClondon, a nine-year resident, is the owner of Smart Digital, an internet marketing service whose clients include Bumble Bee Seafoods, WD-40 and Intuit Inc.

“I’m really interested in being a bigger part of the community,” he said when asked why he is running. “I love Solana Beach and I think what City Council has done in the past is working.

“I’m hoping to bring a fresh, new perspective for the future with my skill set in technology,” he added. “I approach things in a different way and I’d like to bring that to the city.”

Nelson filed his application shortly before the 5 p.m., Aug. 15 deadline so The Coast News was unable to contact him for this article.

In Del Mar, Mayor Dwight Worden is seeking a second term, vying for two available seats along with Dan Quirk, Terry Gaasterland and Brian Fletcher.

“There are so many people I respect who encouraged me … and so many important issues we are midstream on that I would like to see completed,” Worden said when asked why he is running for re-election.

Those issues include sea-level rise, meeting the city’s affordable housing goals, adopting rules for short-term rentals in residential zones and gaining control over events at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

A retired lawyer and former Del Mar city attorney, Worden said the first two were among the most challenging issues during his first term because they divided the community.

His proudest achievements include being a “small part” of replacing City Hall with a $17.8 million civic center complex and adopting a code of civil discourse.

Worden said the biggest misconception about him is that “some people try to paint me as a shill for the Surfrider Foundation and a champion on managed retreat, neither of which is true.”

More information about Worden is available at

Quirk, who has lived in Del Mar since 2010, worked with the Finance Committee and was involved with efforts to underground utility poles and lines and pass Measure Q, a voter-approved 1 percent sales tax hike to raise money for city projects such as undergrounding.

If elected he said he would like to “improve the speed in which we do things.”

“For example, Measure Q easily passed in 2016, we started collecting money in April 2017 and not a lot has been done,” he said. “I want the city to be a little more action oriented.

“It’s important to be thoughtful and gather a lot of community input,” he added. “But it’s also important to take action and lead.”

Additionally, Quirk is concerned that some projects are not being appropriately prioritized.

Visit his campaign website at for more information on Quirk and where he stands on other Del Mar issues.

Fletcher is a fourth-generation Del Marian, the great-grandson of Col. Ed Fletcher, who helped develop the county’s smallest city.

“A lot is changing in Del Mar and a lot of it’s complicated,” he said. “I want to be part of that change. I didn’t want to sit back and say, ‘I wish I had done something.’”

Some of his main concerns include downtown revitalization and neighborhood security.

“We have to be more vigilant because more and more people are coming into our community,” Fletcher said.

“I’ve always been passionate about Del Mar,” he added. “I think it’s time to step up and get involved.”

Gaasterland said she has been “keen to serve Del Mar” ever since she moved there 15 years ago, and has been doing that as a volunteer.

A professor of computational biology and genomics and a member of the Institute for Genomic Medicine at the University of California San Diego, she is a former Finance Committee member, the current chairwoman of the Sea-Level Rise Stakeholder-Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) and a Design Review Board member.

With incumbent Terry Sinnott not seeking a third term, she said now is a good time to run for council.

Gaasterland said serving on the STAC has allowed her to understand the dynamics of the entire city, from the lagoon and beach to the hillside, and how those areas relate to code changes and policy development.

“I want to be part of shaping that policy so I needed to take the next step,” she said.

As the STAC chairwoman, she said her goal was to have the committee listen respectfully to public input.

“We need a new level of communication, and I hope to use that model so everyone can hear what others have to say before we make decisions,” Gaasterland said. “This will pertain to issues big and small.”

She said that will be especially true when it comes to the proposed resort since it is in Del Mar but will impact Solana Beach equally.

“If we’re not careful it could hurt our relationship with that city,” she said. “They’re our neighbors forever and we need to reach out and work together.

Gaasterland is also researching a 1915 deed that includes a clause guaranteeing Del Mar residents and visitors access to the beach across the railroad tracks.

How do we implement that?” she asked.

More information will be available on Gaasterland’s website – – which is currently being developed.