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San Marcos City Council Appoints New Councilmember

The San Marcos City Council Chambers is shown in this undated photo.

Credit: City of San Marcos

Above: The San Marcos City Council Chambers is shown in this undated photo.

San Marcos is the third North County city, after Oceanside and Encinitas, to appoint a new city council member this month, rather than holding a special election.

San Marcos cancelled elections in 2014 because no one challenged the incumbents. This week, 23 people applied to fill an empty seat created when Rebecca Jones was elected San Marcos mayor in November.

Almost immediately after the candidates finished presenting five-minute addresses to the city council Wednesday night, the mayor and three council members voted unanimously to appoint Escondido Assistant City Manager Jay Petrek.

Jones said Petrek is a San Marcos resident and served on the San Marcos Unified School Board. She is not concerned about conflicts of interest.

“No, I don’t believe so,” Jones said. “Their city attorney has looked into it, as ours has, and to be honest, a lot of the decisions we make are not specific to the city when we’re talking about regional transportation and that sort of thing. It’s really a regional approach.”

Jones said cities along the state Route 78 corridor may have operated in competition with each other in the past, but the new collaboration of “Innovate 78” has generated a spirit of greater cooperation.

Perhaps most importantly, Jones said Petrek has experience of the issues the city is facing as it grows.

“He understands housing mandates,” Jones said, referring to new state mandates that will require cities to build more housing. “As we have mandated housing, we need to continue to respect the law, because otherwise we’ll be sued.

Jones said the city has 11,000 new homes in its general plan and the state is expected to increase the number of homes the city will be required to build in the future, to meet growing demand for housing.

Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara said Petrek has worked for the city for 33 years.

“Hypothetically,” he said, “there might be some conflict in the future. And if there is, they just want to make sure there is a process to identify it and resolve it.”

San Marcos spokeswoman Sarah Macdonald said Petrek will abstain from voting on any issue where San Marcos and Escondido have opposing counsel on legal matters.

Jones said she likes the fact that Petrek does not currently live in the newly created city council district that will be on the ballot in 2020, and so will not be using his appointment to unfair advantage to run for that office in the next election. After his appointment, Petrek told the city council he will not be running in two years.

Petrek, 59, was appointed Escondido’s assistant city manager in 2016 at a base salary of $164,000.

San Marcos City Council members earn $11,732 annually with a $3,600 car allowance, and a benefits package.

The San Marcos City Council voted unanimously to appoint Escondido Assistant City Manager Jay Petrek to fill a vacancy created when city councilwoman Rebecca Jones was elected mayor.

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KPBS Reporter Matt Hoffman contributed to this story.

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