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Oceanside mourns sudden loss of city treasurer

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside is mourning the loss of city Treasurer Gary Ernst, who died Sept. 22 from natural causes at age 61. City officials sent out a press release to share their condolences over the loss, and inform residents that Ernst’s name has been printed and will remain on the November ballot for city treasurer.

Treasurer candidate Nadine Scott is the sole challenger running for the office.

With the unexpected passing of Ernst, Scott must still gain the majority of votes to be appointed to the position.

Election code states that votes for a deceased candidate listed on the ballot are counted in determining election results. If Ernst wins the upcoming election the seat will be considered vacant at the beginning of the term, which starts Dec. 7, and the City Council can appoint a treasurer or call for a special election.

City Clerk Zack Beck said residents should be informed that Ernst passed before mail-in ballots arrive Oct. 10. He added there is still no way to predict how voters will cast their ballots.

At this point in time the city is mourning Ernst’s recent passing, and Scott is continuing with her campaign.

Mayor Jim Wood said Ernst was a dedicated public servant.

“Gary will be deeply missed by the City Council, staff and community,” Wood said.

Ernst was a longtime resident of Oceanside, active in the Oceanside Rotary, International Rotary and California Treasurers Association.

He was appointed to the position of city treasurer in 2010, and elected as treasurer in 2012.

Ernst held a BSM degree from California State University Los Angeles, a master’s degree in business administration from Pepperdine University, and was certified as a municipal treasurer.

Scott said she was shocked and saddened to learn of Ernst’s death.

As far as her goals as city treasurer, she said she plans to continue safe and careful investment of taxpayer’s funds.

“I look forward to working with staff and discussing some of the ways we can improve accountability and transparency to the public,” Scott said. “The treasurer is in charge of over $330 million of their money, taxpayer money. Public transparency is crucial in order to properly serve the public.”

Scott holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California San Diego, a juris doctor from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, and brings decades of legal and financial experience to the position.

“I have 30 years’ experience as an attorney and as a self-directed, quite successful investor,” Scott said.

Scott has also served as the treasurer for the Resource Conservation District of Greater San Diego County for 20 years. She said the district practices the same conservative and safe investments as the city.

“I can readily apply that knowledge to the city treasurer’s job on day one,” Scott said.

To bring more transparency to the position Scott said she plans to post more information on the city website on the Financial Services Department, bond debt and unfunded projects, and to be available to the public on a daily basis. She will also inform residents about the city bond oversight group and how they can participate.

Scott said the city portfolio is in good shape, and she will seek additional opportunities to grow funds in a safe and secure manner.

As the city does its best to move forward, the treasury manager and Financial Services Department staff will cover the duties of the city treasurer.