This is the second article in a weekly series profiling the candidates in the District 3 county supervisor race. The candidates for the District 3 seat include Carl Hilliard, Dave Roberts, Steve Danon, Stephen Pate and Bryan Ziegler.
By Claire Harlin
When Carl Hilliard’s application for endorsement came across the desk of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the statewide political organization’s board didn’t have to think twice about backing the Del Mar Mayor in his county supervisor campaign.
“Hundreds of people apply and aren’t considered,” said Kris Vosburgh, the association’s spokesman. “He didn’t even need an introduction. They already knew Carl; they’ve known him for more than 30 years, and they know he’s a taxpayer ally … The reason for our existence is to advance taxpayer rights, and he’s totally consistent with our mission.”
Hilliard is running for District 3 County Supervisor against Dave Roberts, Solana Beach’s deputy mayor; Steve Danon, chief-of-staff for Congressman Brian Bilbray; and local residents Bryan Zeigler and Stephen Pate.
Hilliard’s campaign rides much on a reputation of fiscal know-how and dedication to treating the “public purse” with respect. That goal is a product of his colorful past as a telecommunications lawyer who successfully negotiated and arranged the launch of numerous space satellites worldwide, a former businessman who started a large telecommunications company from the ground up, and an electronic countermeasures officer in the Navy, among a long list of other titles and achievements.
Hilliard said one of his biggest fiscal achievements is improving the fiscal climate of Del Mar during the time he has been in office, making the city one of only two in the county to have an “AAA Standard & Poor’s (S&P)” bond credit rating.
“We watch every penny, nickel and dime,” said Hilliard in a recent interview at the L’Auberge Hotel’s Kitchen 1540 restaurant. “It’s easy to forget that those pennies, nickels and dimes aren’t yours; they belong to the taxpayers. I never forget it’s somebody else’s money I’m responsible for.”
He added that he and his colleagues always do a cost-benefit analysis before making monetary considerations.
Hilliard’s fiscal responsibility and knack for numbers was already evident with his very first job as a teenager working as a “print monkey,” he said, at a local paper supply company. It took hardly any time for Hilliard’s boss to pick up on his abilities and hand him more prudent responsibilities.
“My job was to make sure the ink boxes were filled on the printing press, but one day my boss yelled at me, ‘Hey college kid! Can you add?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and he said, ‘OK, get payroll out by tomorrow,’” Hilliard recounted, adding that he has been meticulous with numbers from a young age.
A streamlined budget was key in Hilliard’s creation of telecommunications firm Via/Net Companies without a nickel of outside investment. He ran the company successfully with his wife, Sharon, for more than 26 years.
Hilliard has enjoyed his successes that have come from his budgetary expertise, but he said he holds close to his heart a belief he inherited from his father and grandfather — that one should devote 10 percent of their earnings and time to others. He said this generosity grew from the hardship of living through the Great Depression.
“They strongly believed that if you are privileged by virtue of your education and experience, then you are in a position to help others,” he said.
That’s how Hilliard feels about holding office. After a decades-long business career, he’s not running to further a political career, he said, but to give back to the community and be in a “position of service.”
He said serving since 2004 on the Del Mar City Council — and being elected by a 72-percent majority — is a good example of this.
“The council is like a board of directors, and the city manager is like the president of the corporation,” said Hilliard, pointing to his dedication to the interests of the community — or in this scenario, the “consumers.”
“The elected officials have to respond to the people they serve,” he said, adding that he gets anywhere from half a dozen to a dozen phone calls or emails per week from residents of Del Mar who have a problem with the city government process and seek to bypass city staff.
“Sometimes it’s a view complaint from someone who doesn’t even live in Del Mar, and we still fixed it,” he said. “I try to make everyone realize that we work for the public.”
Hilliard is a Del Mar resident, but he said his experience on numerous regional boards and committees has developed important contacts and increased his familiarity with all the cities in District 3. He’s served as vice chairman of the San Diego Association of Governments planning committee, vice chairman of the League of California Cities legislative committee, and he’s a member of the North County Transit District Board of Directors.
Ensuring clean water, combating childhood obesity, improving air quality, providing public transportation and creating jobs are only a few issues that Hilliard prioritizes, but he said his biggest asset is knowing how to exercise careful, effective spending.
“There is great temptation when a group comes before you with a very worthy project,” he said. “But improving the public’s health, well-being and safety — that’s where the money needs to be spent.”
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