Paul “Mac” McNamara is preparing to officially announce his candidacy for mayor of Escondido. He will be running against incumbent Sam Abed, who is seeking a third term. The official kick-off for the “Time for a Change” kick-off will be January 28, 2-5 p.m. at the Forgotten Barrel Winery.
The election will be in November of 2018.
McNamara, who served 27 ½ years in the U.S. Marine Corps, retiring in 2003 with the rank of colonel, is now executive director of the MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) Museum Foundation, a non-profit. He has held this position for two years. In this role, he supports museum programs which include veteran outreach and teaching values through history to youth, especially youth in Title I schools. The museum is a fascinating repository of history of the Marines. “I’m still finding out things,” he says.
McNamara moved to this area 20 years ago, in February 1998, when he was serving as the Marine attaché to the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency in Mexico City, where his job was fighting human trafficking and the drug trade.
He was deployed to Beirut, Lebanon during the civil war, when his unit conducted a non-combatant evacuation. He served in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings (Okinawa, North Carolina, Hawaii, and California) In addition to squadron staff tours, he commanded both a Marine Helicopter Squadron and Marine Aircraft Group.
He participated in Operation Desert Storm and other smaller operations. He flew in support of relief operations during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines. He also supported other hurricane and natural disaster relief operations.
During his 20 years in Escondido, McNamara has been very active in civic affairs. This is his second term as a trustee on the Palomar College board.
After leaving the Marine Corps he worked in the private sector in the management of defense technology and engineering programs. He was general manager for a SDVOSB, a for-profit LLC that specialized in Analysis, and Technical and Engineering services. Before that he was general manager of a joint venture between the Inupiat Native Alaskans (Eskimos) from Barrow, Alaska, and Native Hawaiians. He was hired to turn the company around, which he did.
He was chief operating officer and co-founder for Shee Atika Technologies, an engineering, and Technical Services Native Alaskan (Tlingit) owned LLC from Sitka, Alaska.
As VP and COO of Technology Intelligence International, an information architecture design and development company he authored the Marine Corps’ initial overarching Command and Control vision as well as transformational IT efforts for the United States Navy.
Now out of the private sector, McNamara has been increasingly attracted to the idea of “serving something bigger than myself.”
Besides serving on the college board he is a member and volunteer of numerous community organizations, including the Executive Boards of the Escondido Rotary Club (President Elect FY -17-18), former member of the Executive Board of the Escondido Charitable Foundation, and, until recently, the Executive Board of Girls Incorporated of San Diego.
McNamara’s platform consists of three main points:
1) The candidate says he would like “to restore a better sense of civility. I feel we are more divisive than we should be.”
2) McNamara thinks that while government “can’t solve all the problems,” but that with partnerships with the right organizations, more problems can be solved.
“That means talking more with leaders of organizations like Interfaith or other faith-based groups,” he says. “If I were mayor I would do what I could do to facilitate such partnerships.” Again and again during the interview McNamara emphasized that he wants to be the mayor who “listens.”
3) The city budget should reflect the city’s priorities. “Does our budget really reflect what our city is?” asks McNamara. “You need a dialogue,” and to do that he goes back to his first two points, civility and forging partnerships.
As the mayor who would seek feedback from all quarters, McNamara wants to listen to you if you have ideas for solving problems. “If you can help us to do things I want to talk to you,” he says.
One group McNamara feels is neglected (because they have told him so) is the small business owners. “They don’t feel like the city has ever asked them that question,” he says. “I feel that the mayor needs to be out and about asking them what they think about things like potholes or sidewalks near schools. I don’t know how you can get anything done here without listening. You need to have that feedback. “He adds, “You can’t live in an ivory tower and expect to build a community.”
He adds, “A common theme of business people I talk to is the time that it takes to make things happen. The city makes it hard. If you have never started a small business you may not realize that you only have so much capital. Without that background, you may not have the urgency. Sometimes it’s just a matter of making people aware. And you don’t know unless you start talking to people.”
One reason to listen as many voices as possible, he says, “is that we don’t have the money to do all things, but you should support individual groups as much as possible to get things done with cooperation, rather than money.”
McNamara points to the recent controversy over the Escondido Country Club development, and the recent approval by the City Council of New Urban West Inc.’s Villages project, which has been fought by ECCHO (Escondido Country Club Home Owners) whose most recent action was to take the city to court.
Because of the way that vote turned out, he says, “We are going to have a traffic jam that will outlast our children.”
On the subject of real estate and new development, “We need to ask, do we have the right mix of housing, the right number of rentals?” says McNamara. “Does it pass the good neighbor test? If we looked back at it in fifty years would we still be in favor of it?”
He adds, “You can’t stop growth but you have to do it smart and you have to consider the second and third level effects of growth, not just the first.”
He supports public—private partnerships empowering citizens of the city to be part of the solution, “not just recipients of what the city wants to hand out,” he says.
McNamara knows the city budget can’t please everyone, “but it should reflect the community’s priorities. Does this budget really reflect what our city is? When you cut the hours of a public swimming pool on Washington why do the kids get into trouble? In an area where you need more police patrols, you need to give kids more and not less to do. You don’t need a degree from the Harvard School of Business to know that if you don’t give your kids something to do that they will get into trouble. The city doesn’t have any problem cutting fees for a developer but won’t spend the money to keep a pool open.”
He also criticizes the city council for closing the East branch of the city library. This decision and the most recent vote to outsource the Escondido library to Maryland-based Library Systems & Services (LS&S) shows a tendency not to listen to constituents, he says.
The council has a tendency to make decisions without considering the second or third order consequences of its actions, he says. Such as the decision several years ago to fight the location of a halfway house for children of illegal immigrants. The city ended up paying $500,000 in a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union over this vote.
“The action of the mayor showed us in a bad light. Isn’t there a better way to solve problems? There are always third and secondary consequences for everything you do.”
McNamara believes he is the right person to bring the two sides of the community together. Although he is a Democrat, he considers himself to be a moderate, and he notes that the city is almost equally divided between the two parties.
“I sometimes see that people view our Latino population as a problem instead of as a resource,” he says. He would like to further involve the Spanish-speaking population with the city through festivals, and painting public murals. “Because one thing leads to the other.”
He reemphasizes the need to listen. “You have to go out and talk to people. Sam listens every four years when he knocks on doors but he doesn’t listen the rest of the time.”
He has a vision for developing Grand Avenue. “I think it has the potential to be a mini-Gaslamp.” He wants to pick the brains of small business owners to make that happen.
“Many problems are complex. If it was easy we would have solved them by now,” he reflects.
The city should also do what it can to promote the positives of the elementary school district. “When you start looking at the aggregate we have many things to be proud of. We’ve got really good schools right here. They are very innovative,” he says.
One of the most important functions of the mayor, says McNamara, is to be a “cheerleader” for the city. “He controls the agenda. He represents the whole city, which the other council members don’t do. He has a bully pulpit.”
He concludes, “I don’t know that you can solve every problem but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.”