Mayor’s gavel changes hands in Del Mar


One of the few claims that will draw no quarrel in Del Mar these days: 2017 has been one of the most momentous and contentious years in recent memory.

No wonder, then, that Terry Sinnott was in a chipper mood this week as he called to order his final city council meeting as mayor.

“Well, this is a very good night tonight,” he said as he opened the council’s Dec. 4 session, drawing a big laugh from the two dozen people on hand.

And when Councilwoman Sherryl Parks made the motion — per the council’s tradition of rotating appointments — to nominate Dwight Worden as mayor and Dave Druker as deputy mayor, the latter drew another big laugh when he quipped: “Do we accept?”

That jovial tenor has been increasingly infrequent this year as the city grappled with a litany of controversies, including its forthcoming plan to cope with sea-level rise, the long-stewing question over creating its own police force, the dispute over short-term vacation rentals and five months of strife surrounding the August firing of Pat Vergne, the city’s longtime chief lifeguard and director of Community Services, who for many residents was the very face of Del Mar.

Sinnott, nonetheless, was proud to cite some of the highlights, including: passage of a two-year budget that improved the city’s financial reporting, onset of a $5 million plan to revitalize Del Mar’s downtown corridor, proceeding on schedule and on budget in building Del Mar’s $16 million city hall and civic center, and rallying together to host its first-ever Breeders’ Cup.

Before handing over the gavel, he offered his hope that Del Mar will not be marred by the less flattering moments from the past year.

“Twenty-seventeen has been a difficult year. New regulations and some employee issues have taken their toll on this council and the community as a whole. Our public discourse has, in too many cases, moved a little bit away from the civil and into some other realm, which was disappointing,” Sinnott said. “… I hope we will all work together to bring the community together in achieving common goals and move away from some of our differences and move to common results.”

The year ahead promises to be every bit as momentous and portentous: the city’s ordinance on short-term rentals will go before state regulators — and in all likelihood, the courtroom — city personnel will move into their new digs by this summer, details of the luxury resort on Del Mar’s northern bluff will come into focus, moves will begin to underground utility lines across the city, and recently adopted design guidelines will lay a new regime for property owners and architects.

To those issues Worden will bring perhaps the most experience of anyone on the council. He was Del Mar’s city attorney from 1977 to 1983 — followed by consultation for another two decades — and served on the California Coastal Commission, which is expected to rule on several Del Mar issues next year, not the least of which are the city’s policy on short-term rentals and its strategy for adapting to sea-level rise.

But Worden’s first act as mayor was to read aloud a resolution thanking Sinnott for his even-keeled leadership in increasingly heated and lengthy meetings — he presided over more than 100 hours of city council meetings, “a record I hope I won’t break,” Worden said. The resolution then peppered in a few light-hearted jabs among the heartfelt praise, with clauses that referenced Sinnott’s ever-present eyewear — “the most stylish glasses of any mayor in the San Diego region, no, the country” — his “valiant but unsuccessful” attempt to defeat Solana Beach in the cities’ annual bocce showdown, and his efforts “to increase community involvement by creating enough new council committees so that every resident may have a committee role.”

And when time came to enact the resolution for all posterity, it is only fitting that the record will read as it did more than a few times this year:

Resolution passed 4-1, with Sinnott opposed.