Above: RSF Association Manager Christy Whalen leads the candidate forum at the May 9 annual meeting. Running for three spots on the board are, from left, Skip Atkins, Bill Strong, Bill Weber and Laurel Lemarié. Photo by Christina Macone-Greene
RANCHO SANTA FE — Four Covenant residents vying for three vacancies on the Rancho Santa Fe Association board spoke at the May 9 annual meeting, the same day ballots were mailed. Ballots are due back at the Association’s office by 5 p.m. June 10 and will be tabulated by the inspector of elections at an open session board meeting on June 11 at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club.
Seeking to fill the outgoing board seats of President Kenneth Markstein, Vice President Allen Finkelson and Treasurer Janet Danola are Skip Atkins, Bill Strong, Bill Weber, and Laurel Lemarié.
Association Manager Christy Whalen led the candidate portion of the meeting but first thanked the Covenant residents who volunteered their time on a committee or the board.
“Thank you all for your work and dedication to our community,” Whalen said.
First to speak was Skip Atkins.
Atkins said he and his wife bought their first piece of property in the Covenant in 2013 and moved to the Ranch in 2015. Since becoming a Covenant resident, he has served on the Association’s Finance Committee and Fiber Optic Committee, as well as had positions on the board of Rancho Santa Fe Garden Club and RSF Golf Club Activities Committee.
With a professional background in underground and aerial construction, Atkins touted his knowledge in supplying services to utility companies. Atkins said his 51 years of working with counties and utilities would be an asset to the Covenant.
“I have become aware of the need to improve the Covenant’s infrastructure,” he said.
Examples of improvements cited included potholes in the roads, speed limits, crosswalks, and letting SDG&E know that the Association would be willing to work with them is situations such as the “unsightly” power pole situation.
The need to work with the Santa Fe Irrigation District on fair water rates was also on the list.
He also added his experience would benefit the dedicated staff at the Association.
Atkins’ concentration of priorities consisted of completing RSF Connect so that residents can get fiber to their homes and informing owners about the network. He also wants to improve the dining and golf experience at the club as well as have a financial focus on the Tennis Club.
Atkins ended his three-minute speech with, “A vote for Skip Atkins is a chicken in every pot,” receiving chuckle from the crowd.
Next to speak was Bill Strong, who has lived in the Covenant for more than three decades. Strong’s professional background was in consulting in addition to establishing start-up companies ranging from software to real estate development.
He currently holds a position on the Finance Committee and served on the board of the Rancho Santa Fe Association from 2001 to 2004. He said that he understands the serious work of being a director and knows the job.
Strong said the Association has a 190-year-old adobe, 150 employees and 100 years as a historic planned community, and a $20 million a year budget.
“The seven (board) directors protect and run this operation,” he said. “We have serious competition and must do everything possible to restore the Rancho Santa Fe brand to make this special place more attractive, enjoyable and valuable.”
Strong said being a board director requires time while also recognizing the limitations.
He explained that having had this job before makes him a good candidate and he shared 15 principles which he believes make a good director. Some of those included representing the long-term interest of members, wanting discussions to be cordial, factual and fair, protecting the rural atmosphere of the Covenant, focusing on the future and avoiding conflicts of interest.
“We should all keep in mind the reasons why we moved, bought and lived here. The best thing about this place is the people,” he said. “After this meeting, have dinner at the Golf Club and meet someone new — chances are you’ll like them.”
Bill Weber was next at the microphone.
Weber and his family found their home in the Covenant in 1998.
“We were attracted to the beauty and sense of community,” he said. “I’m running because I want to preserve those qualities.”
Weber said as the community moves into the future, he understands the ongoing changes in technology and community dynamics. While the community moves ahead, Weber said, there is still a need to preserve those qualities which first attracted Covenant residents.
Weber has served on the Rancho Santa Fe Finance Committee. On the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club spectrum, he volunteered in positions such as the Renovation Committee, Long-Range Planning Committee and Board of Governors.
He said he would bring 57 years of experience to the board in terms of serving on committees in the Ranch as well as nonprofits in the surrounding communities. His professional background was a program manager for Hughes Aircraft Company and General Motors.
Weber described himself as a listener, problem solver and consensus builder.
“We need to understand what our vision is, where we want to go, and then figure out how we get there,” Weber said.
For Weber, the key issues in the Covenant included infrastructure, building relationships between boards and the Association, and alternative sources of water for the golf club.
“We want to continue to build and market the unique branding of the community,” he said. “And equally important, to engage a full spectrum of the demographics in this community of volunteers, so it serves everybody.”
Last to speak was Laurel Lemarié, a longtime Rancho Santa Fe resident, who has lived in the Covenant with her family since 1976. While her business background included systems programming, design and maintenance for a shipboard computer system for Naval Electronics Laboratory, Lemarié has volunteered in various capacities.
She was publicly elected to the San Dieguito Planning Group and RSF Community Services District and still holds those posts.
She’s also been active in other areas such as the RSF Trail Committee, RSF Garden Club, RSF Senior Center, RSF Community Concerts, and Beach & Country Guild.
Lemarié pinpointed both internal and external issues in the Ranch.
“There is an understaffed Association office that lacks historic memory,” she said.
Lemarié pointed out the need to fill vacancies at the Association which included a building commissioner, code enforcement, as well as a liaison to deal with county and utility issues. Other topics she touched upon in her three-minute speech included the finalization of RSF Connect, the need to revitalize the Village, underground utilities, maintain trails and parks, and continue to address the state of tree health in the Covenant.
Additionally, Lemarié addressed the “sky high” water rates as well as her involvement in opposition of the county supervisors’ rezoning of Harmony Grove’s two projects, and how that that rezoning would have further impacted road and traffic conditions in Rancho Santa Fe. She spoke about the need for infrastructure improvements to ensure that commuter traffic would not impact pedestrian safety.
“Commuter traffic makes it dangerous to walk around our property,” she said. “Many of our roads are de facto thoroughfares.”
Lemarié added that her granddaughter attends R. Roger Rowe and she is also aware of the concerns of the demographic of younger families.
“My initiatives will benefit all homeowners — I’ll represent all families. A vote for me is a vote for our future,” Lemarié said.