Solana Beach board honors outgoing trustee Rich Leib

Solana Beach School District trustees and superintendent wore cowboy hats to honor board member Rich Leib at his last school board meeting.
(Karen Billing)

Fellow Solana Beach School District board members donned cowboy hats at the Jan. 16 board meeting as Rich Leib rode off into the sunset following his resignation. Leib resigned from the board after nearly 12 years due to his increasing responsibilities serving on the University of California Board of Regents.

The cowboy hats and a slide show set to Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” were playful nods to Leib’s love of country music.

“I know it makes very little sense that born and raised in Los Angeles and being Jewish in an urban area, but somehow I fell into country music when I needed to get a job at the radio station at UC Santa Barbara,” Leib said.

There was no other radio program available so Leib took country music, naming his show “The Kosher Cowboy” and igniting a love for old country classics. He shares a love of country music and has been to numerous concerts with California State Senate President Toni Atkins, the former San Diego City Councilmember who was Leib’s leading advocate for the regents post.

Since being appointed to the regents in fall 2018 by Governor Jerry Brown, Leib has been appointed to the Public Engagement and Development Committee and was tapped to chair two task forces: one on student mental health and another on technology transfer, which looks at all the intellectual properties of the universities.

“It’s very difficult to leave but the UC Regents is far more time-intensive than I thought it was going to be,” Leib said. “It’s best for the school district that I part ways.”

At the meeting, board members took the time to thank Leib for his dedication, leadership, sense of humor and service to community and the students. SBSD President Julie Union, who had lost her voice, quietly quipped: “All I can say is I’m speechless.”

“I’ve so enjoyed your positive attitude and witty charm and admired your thoughtful and investigative approach to ensuring high quality education for our students,” said SBSD Vice President Debra Schade of Leib, whom she has known as a parent, soccer coach, community member, political ally and “true partner in education.” “I hate that you’re leaving our board and I know your talents are better served for a bigger and broader stage…you will ensure great things for the future of California.”

After graduating from UCSB, Leib earned a Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School and a master of public policy degree from Claremont Graduate University. He is currently president and chief executive officer at Dunleer Strategies and formerly was the executive vice president and general counsel at Liquid Environmental Solutions from 2002 until he sold the company in 2017.

Leib is also a trustee of the North Coast Repertory Theatre and provides baseball commentary for Miracle League of San Dieguito games.

SBSD Trustee Vicki King said one thing she admires most about Leib is his dedication to his family—he and his wife Sharon have lived in Solana Beach for 25 years, raising three daughters who all attended Skyline and Solana Vista Schools.

From Leib, King said she learned to be a better mentor and a more collaborative and inclusive leader—when it came to tackling difficult issues she said he was “so dedicated to making sure that everyone was heard.”

SBSD Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said she would not say “goodbye” but rather “We’ll meet again” as Leib has committed to continue to work with the district on art installations at Skyline School and providing preschool scholarships for underserved students, an issue he is passionate about.

“When I came to the school district board in 2009, it was a great district and my goal was really not to screw it up and I have succeeded,” Leib said, thanking the district teachers, staff, the “phenomenal” superintendent and the “unbelievably dedicated” board of education.

The district is accepting applications to fill Leib’s seat, which expires in December 2020. The board has until March 12 to fill the vacancy and the deadline to apply has been extended to Feb. 7 as the board works toward finalizing its new by-area trustee map. A new member will be appointed at the Feb. 27 special meeting after candidate interviews in open session.