Meet Del Mar’s new mayor: Sherryl Parks

Sherryl Parks might be Del Mar’s new mayor, but she’s been a familiar face around the community for decades. Parks has lived in the county’s smallest city for more than 40 years.

“It’s a duty to step up and help each other get through this,” Parks said about her new role as mayor. “It broadens my exposure to opportunities to tell the Del Mar story — what we’re doing now and the beauty of this little ocean community.”

Parks was raised in the Pacific Northwest in a family of five children. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history and a teaching certificate from Whitman College, a private liberal arts school in Walla Walla, Washington. After graduation, Parks began teaching at a middle school just outside of Seattle.

In 1974, Parks moved to Del Mar, where she has lived in the same house ever since. As the mother of two sons, Joshua and Cameron, she quickly became involved in the community and volunteered on Del Mar Hills Academy’s site council. She also served as a substitute teacher and, in 1984, she started as a secretary at UC San Diego’s School of Medicine.

From there, Parks became part of the medical school’s tutorial program, where she worked for 23 years. She designed and implemented a support group for wives of medical students and introduced the first-ever stress management course for incoming summer school students.

“I was perfectly busy with all that,” recalled Parks, who now has four grandchildren.

As her boys grew up, Parks got even more involved in the community.

She served as co-chair of the opening of the new Del Mar Library. She also served as president of the Del Mar Foundation board, where she held a seat for six years.

More recently, Parks served a four-year elected term on St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Vestry, which advises the priest on community relations. In 2007, she traveled to Gulf Port, Mississippi, to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and in 2009, she traveled to Africa to feed children living near the resourced-drained diamond mines of Namibia.

She currently coordinates sewing classes out of her home, where she and others make pillowcases for children with cancer.

As an active community volunteer, Parks became familiar with local politics.

Her former husband, Elliot Parks, served as mayor of Del Mar during the 1990s. She worked on the campaigns of several former council members. In 1999, Parks also began a four-year term on the city’s Design Review Board.

With a growing passion for government, Parks decided to run for City Council and was elected in 2012.

“I ran because I thought I could help,” Parks said. “It’s truly a labor of love.”

Reflecting on her first few years on the council, Parks said she is proud of the city’s progress on plans for a new civic center and a master plan for Shores Park.

The council in November unanimously approved the architectural design for the civic center project and will conduct a hearing in January to consider certification of the environmental impact report. Plans feature a 3,200-square-foot town hall for community gatherings and government meetings on the site of the city’s facilities at 1050 Camino del Mar. Plans also include a 9,250-square-foot city hall for administrative services, a 15,000-square-foot outdoor public plaza for community activities, and 160 spaces for parking in both a two-level underground parking garage and a surface parking lot.

As for Shores Park, the landscape architectural firm working on the project, Schmidt Design Group, will present three preliminary design concepts to the council in January. When a long-range plan is eventually approved, it will guide the development of the 5.3-acre park, which is bounded by Camino del Mar, Ninth Street and Stratford Court.

“I’m proud of handling two mayor projects at the same time,” Parks said. “It’s a big workload, but these two projects were overdue.”

With the council’s diverse credentials, Parks said everyone brings something to the dais. Deputy Mayor Terry Sinnott has a background in customer service and management, Councilman Don Mosier has a background in research and science, Councilman Dwight Worden practiced law and Councilman Al Corti has worked in development.

“I offer knowing everything,” she said with a laugh. “I’m a woman, that’s why.”

But Parks’ contributions to the community go much more beyond that — something Corti acknowledged in his recent outgoing remarks as mayor.

“Sherryl, your contributions to our community is varied and deep,” he said during the Dec. 7 council meeting. “To me, your greatest strength and asset to the council is you bring an element of humility and compassion to many of the issues we face. Being at my side as deputy mayor this past year and sharing that human side and perspective has been invaluable to me.”

After Corti’s reflection on the city’s accomplishments in 2015, the council unanimously appointed Parks as the city’s new mayor. This is her first term as mayor, a position that rotates annually among council members.

As the city’s new mayor, Parks hopes to help move along the civic center and Shores Park projects as well as other city projects in the New Year.

She’s looking forward to completing the city’s wastewater connection to the San Elijo Water Reclamation Facility in Cardiff and additional sidewalk and drainage improvements. As a member of the Community Emergency Response Team, she’s carefully looking at how the city can continue its preparations for El Niño storms.

Parks is also excited to continue working closely with Del Mar’s business community. She serves as a council liaison to the city’s Business Support Advisory Committee, which was formed about a year ago to identify ways the city could be more business friendly.