The Solana Beach City Council unanimously appointed former member Peter Zahn on Wednesday, April 25, to fill the seat left vacant by the sudden resignation of Mayor Ginger Marshall on April 5.
A practicing attorney for 35 years, Zahn was elected to his first term on the council in 2012 and chose not to run again in 2016. During his term, he was active in a number of issues that still face the council, and he helped lay the groundwork for the city’s community choice energy program that’s being rolled out this year, the first in San Diego County.
Solana Beach appoints a different member of the council as mayor each year. Deputy Mayor David Zito has chaired the meetings since Marshall’s resignation, and will continue until another mayor is appointed.
Zahn was one of 10 confirmed eligible applicants for the vacant council seat. Two other applicants were confirmed but withdrew before the meeting, and another who applied was not confirmed. A third confirmed applicant, Richard Hendlin, who served on the first Solana Beach City Council in 1986, withdrew his name Wednesday night in favor of Zahn.
“He will be able to walk in, sit down in the chair, and be immediately familiar with all that you have to be familiar with,” Hendlin said.
All four council members agreed, and Zahn was sworn in and seated to participate in the rest of Wednesday’s meeting.
“Mr. Zahn has continued to stay engaged (in city activities), and his experience as an attorney will serve this council well at this particular time,” said Councilwoman Jewel Edson.
Marshall, who served less than one full term, was appointed to the council after she and incumbent Mike Nichols were unopposed in 2014. The city did not hold a council election that year.
Hers was the second unexpected resignation from the council in less than a month, and she offered no public explanation for her decision. Nichols resigned effective March 12 in a letter submitted a day earlier, citing a need to spend more time with his family.
Lesa Heebner, who stepped down in 2016 after three four-year terms on the council, was unanimously appointed at the council’s April 11 meeting to fill the remaining months of Nichols’ term. She was sworn in and seated the same night, and participated in the rest of the evening’s meeting.
All the applicants for the appointments agreed not to seek re-election in November.
Joe Kellejian, who stepped aside in 2012 after 20 years on the council, was a leading candidate for one of the appointments, and his long service was praised by several speakers.
In all, five applicants including Heebner and Zahn were former council members. The fifth, David Powell, served a single term on the council from 2002 to 2006.
Council members thanked all the applicants and encouraged them to continue their participation in city service.
Solana Beach is the second-smallest incorporated city in San Diego County, with fewer than 13,500 residents. Its neighbor, Del Mar, has about 4,400 residents.
--Phil Diehl is a writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune