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Trio’s tenure: Retiring council members reflect on careers

The retirements of Encinitas Councilman James Bond, Solana Beach Mayor Joe Kellejian and Carlsbad Councilwoman Ann Kulchin mark the end of an era in North County coastal politics.

With nearly a century of public service between them, each has left an indelible signature in the sand within some of the most well-known and progressive California beach communities.

Kulchin: City is a family

“I never thought I would be on the council this long,” said Kulchin, who was first elected in 1980 and served for more than 32 years. “It’s the purest form of government, because you’re the closest to the people. It’s a non-partisan board, so no one tells you what to do.”

Kulchin, a former school teacher raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn, N.Y., thought she was moving to New Mexico when her husband, Dave, delivered the news in 1978 that he accepted a position with Hughes Aircraft and the family was relocating to Carlsbad.

Shortly after arriving to the coastal resort city, which at the time had 31,000 residents, Kulchin got to work volunteering on a number of committees, which caught the attention of local business leaders, who recruited her to run for council.

Among her proudest achievements, Kulchin said, include her participation in the opening of the 64,000-square-foot Carlsbad City Library complex in 1999. Known as the Dove Library on Dove Lane, the facility houses the Ruby G. Schulman Auditorium and the William D. Cannon Art Gallery.

Kulchin has been credited with successfully lobbying state officials for funds to construct the three-quarters-of-a-mile-long Carlsbad Sea Walk, which runs from Tamarack State Beach north to Pine Avenue.

“Carlsbad is my family and that’s what I’m going to miss the most,” said Kulchin, who in July will celebrate 60 years of marriage. “I’m now going to see my friends and do friends stuff like have a bite to eat or enjoy a cup of coffee with them.”

Kulchin said despite promising her husband that she wouldn’t make any decisions on future plans until 2013, participation in a number of associations and organizations is already on the horizon.

Bond: Coastal politics changing

For Bond, stepping down after 20 years of service comes as a relief, he said. Having already inflated the tires and polished the hubcaps on his motor home, he added that not needing to “bone up” for a council meeting and anticipate all of the issues and how they might go is very comforting.

“Like Frank Sinatra, I’ve had regrets, but too few to mention,” Bond said. “If I had to pick one, I would say it’s not having gotten out four years ago. This time I knew I was going and I was very happy with that.”

Looking back at how the political climate has changed since he was first elected in 1992, Bond said that coastal Southern California has gradually shifted toward a more liberal or left-of-center way of thinking. He said that accompanying that shift has been a swing toward more mean-spirited elections and campaigns.

Bond was critical of people who he said abuse the public comments portion of the council meeting, which is reserved for members of the public who want to address the City Council regarding non-agenda items.

“This year I was really disappointed to see that we had regular herds of people to criticize the sitting council,” he said. “To make disparaging and in many cases totally untruthful comments or remarks is not the way you elect, select and support your representatives.”

At 73, Bond admitted that before running for the council, he had no idea where the Encinitas City Hall was located, nor did he imagine how expensive running a campaign would be. Having volunteered for a number of service organizations, Bond said he saw it as another volunteering opportunity. The difference, he said, is that when volunteering in service clubs, you don’t have people trying to drill holes in the bottom of your canoe.

Among his biggest accomplishments on the council, Bond pointed to the Encinitas Ranch conversion from agricultural land to housing and commercial, which precipitated the building of 1,000 new homes and a Home Depot. He also listed the building of Leucadia Boulevard and his efforts on sand replenishment projects for Encinitas’ beaches, which eventually spread to include the entire region.

“It’s been a great ride, although I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I would be any kind of elected official,” he said. “I just wanted to make things better as a result of my having been there.”

Kellejian: Community has blossomed

Dec. 12 was Kellejian’s last day on the Solana Beach City Council. After 20 years of service, the five-time mayor has left his position behind the dais to run the San Diego branch of his family’s auto recycling business, which he said has experienced tremendous growth and diversity in the past few years.

Looking back on his initial motivation to get involved in community affairs, Kellejian pointed to some of his earliest memories growing up in Los Angeles, and said that it was a desire to provide a better environment in which to raise his daughters that got him “off of the couch” and into public service.

“I’ve been very happy serving my community and watching it blossom,” he said. “Solana Beach is a great place to live, but it took work to get it to be the place it is.”

As a member of the Solana Beach Town Council, Kellejian was involved in making the decision for Solana Beach to go forward with pursuing cityhood in 1986. During his tenure on the City Council, the Solana Beach railway station was constructed after the depot in Del Mar closed.

Kellejian said he worked tirelessly to gain approval and raise the dollars necessary for the undergrounding of the station, which required 20,000 truckloads to move 300,000 cubic yards of material. Other notable projects include the building of two pedestrian bridges that cross over the train tracks, providing leadership to help push through the upgraded stretch of Interstate 5 from Villa de la Valle to just north of Lomas Santa Fe Drive, and building projects such as the Solana Beach library and City Hall.

On a regional level, as chairman of the San Diego Association of Governments Transportation Committee, Kellejian helped win voter approval for Proposition A in 2004. The measure extended a half-cent sales tax to 2048 and is expected to provide $14 billion for future transportation projects.

Kellejian advised others seeking elected office to keep in mind that if 51 percent of the population votes for a particular measure, there is still 49 percent that will be unhappy with the decision.

“It’s the job of councils to make sure that whatever they’re asking the community to do is widespread and not just confined to a small group of people,” he said. “It’s hard to force people to do something and a split community is not a good community.”

After retiring, Kellejian said, he plans on staying active on different boards and commissions. Among them are the American Lung Association, Vista Community Clinic, Alliance for a Drug Free Youth and the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency.

Manny Lopez is a North County freelance writer

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Trio’s tenure: Retiring council members reflect on careers