CARLSBAD — A new face has emerged for the 2020 City Council race.
Lela Panagides, 49, announced her candidacy last week to challenge incumbent Keith Blackburn in District 2. Panagides, who moved to the city two years ago, said she decided to join the race because of concerns over the city’s financial future and to look for new ways to generate revenue to match the future needs.
Safety, the environment and quality of life are other priorities for Panagides, who runs her own consulting firm, Leap into Leadership.
However, one of her biggest challenges is her relatively short time living in Carlsbad, an obstacle of which she is already well aware. She and her family moved two years ago from Illinois and she has since become active in her son’s school and with beach cleanups before deciding to run for the seat.
“When you sit on a city council, you are a trustee,” Panagides said. “I’m an independent voice for Carlsbad. I’m independent of these backers, you have to tow our party line or our interests.”
As for her campaign launch, it is later than others in the city, but the election isn’t until November 2020. Her campaign treasurer, Stephanie Sanchez, said it’s an advantage to get out early, which is why it is important for Panagides to get out there, especially going against a three-term incumbent in Blackburn.
“You get a head start and are able to walk for more neighbor contact,” said Sanchez, who is also the treasurer for District 4 candidate Teresa Acosta.
Panagides has never served in public office and her career has been spent working with technology and innovation with companies such as Microsoft, where she was the director of people and organizational capability, unraveling ways to increase efficiency and lower costs. It’s the mindset she’s taking into her race.
In addition to her wide-ranging career, Panagides has also spent years living abroad. Born in Rio De Janerio, she has lived in six countries (Spain, Chile, Poland and Greece are the others) thanks to her career and study abroad program.
Some of her time abroad in Europe was spent helping businesses transition to a capitalistic business model after the fall of Communism, which sparked her interest in organizational change and development.
During her time with Microsoft Panagides said she saw the importance of innovation and identifying economic disruptions early and seeing its importance in the economy to ensure the vitality businesses.
“We need to reach out to people with different perspectives,” she said of her approach. “Do a product launch like they do in the private sector. Test it out and if it works, get feedback and then you roll it out.”
As such, part of her campaign centers on the financial pathways for the city in the future and ensuring the Carlsbad Community Vision. Being nearly built out, Panagides said property taxes will flatten out and sales tax has future challenges with more online shopping.
“There’s going to be a perfect storm coming around the horizon,” she said. “How do we continue to be viable? We can’t build our way to viability. We can’t build our way to solvency. We have to look at new ways of financing. We need to be innovative.”
She said it’s a change of thought processes, also noting outside factors, such as the tariffs in China, have a real affect in Carlsbad.
Additionally, other issues she is campaigning on include the environment and moving to a clean energy economy, public safety and quality of life.
She is also a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Carlsbad Citizens Academy graduate and Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce.