After 42 years in public service, Mark Muir is looking forward to finally retiring — but that doesn't mean he's going anywhere.
Muir, who spent seven years on the Encinitas City Council and 35 years with the city’s fire department, lost in his bid for a third term in November to opponent Jody Hubbard. In the first election for the newly-created District 3, which covers Cardiff, Muir earned 46.37 percent of votes, while Hubbard, a planning commissioner, garnered 53.63 percent.
But Muir, who officially left the council in mid-December, assures residents he leaves the governing body "in a happy place."
"When I transitioned from the fire department to council, I really never felt like I was retired," Muir explained. "I just got more meetings and more responsibility. Now that I actually have that, it's exciting and I feel really blessed to have worked as a fire chief and city council member in the city I actually live in."
In his time on the council, Muir said he has been proud of himself and his colleagues for advocating for open space and helping the city maintain a balanced budget.
While serving as the city's fire chief, he said he helped the department reach a cooperative agreement that saved ratepayers millions of dollars and improved the department. When Muir served as chair of the San Dieguito Water District's board, he was able to help secure funding for Leo Mullen Sports Park and the San Diego Botanic Garden.
Muir plans to continue challenging himself and staying involved in the city.
He's looking forward to starting a town council for the city's unrepresented areas, including New and Old Encinitas.
He also plans to expand his Cardiff Current newsletter — which currently has more than 6,000 subscribers — to all areas of Encinitas in an effort to bring the city more together and keep everyone informed.
Muir, the only Republican on the council this last term, said he has noticed Encinitas becoming "very partisan" and wants to engage people in city politics, regardless of party affiliation.
"I hope our city is known for its character, culture, the beach town assets and not by political culture that we have at times," he said. "I think it's unfortunate that we have some of that, and I hope to be a voice in opposition to that and talk about what's important to our community."
He also noted what he considered "very obvious gerrymandering" when it came time for the city to divide into districts.
Because Muir did not live in Cardiff and his opponent was endorsed by Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Muir said he had difficulty winning.
"I'm not making excuses for why I lost,” he said. “I congratulate Jody on her win, but there was some obvious gerrymandering that was taking place. It's very difficult when you look at the district that I live in, and 98 percent of it is Cardiff and when you don't live in Cardiff, it's kind of hard to win. When it's gerrymandered like that, it's not fair. I hope to address those issues in the future so we can get everybody involved and engaged and not become so divisive."
He recommends to the newly elected council members, Hubbard and Joe Mosca, that they should listen to the community, even if it means being on the minority side of a vote.
He points to housing, infrastructure and roads as some of the biggest issues facing the city.
"If you start taking this party position, then you need to understand that whether you're a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent or any other party, your party's always going to be part of the minority, so you need to focus on the bigger picture of what's good for all of us," he said.
As far as running for office again in the future, Muir said he doesn't want to rule out any options but also wants to enjoy his newfound retirement.
"I feel blessed to not only have been the fire chief but a council member as well," he said. "We'll see what the future brings. I'm optimistic about Encinitas because what really makes Encinitas is not five city council members but all the citizens that we have. We have a lot of good people here. I think nothing but the best for what happens in the future."