Veteran focuses on leadership skills in Encinitas council bid


Editor’s note: This is the third in a series profiling all Encinitas City Council candidates.

During his 26-year career in the U.S. Navy, Alan Lerchbacker served in a number of posts, including command of a base in Guam where some 2,500 people lived and worked.

“It’s a little city,” said Lerchbacker, 62, a Cardiff resident and one of four people running for an open seat on the Encinitas City Council in November.

The skills he gained in the Navy (where he rose to the rank of commander) and later as a business executive would translate well to the world of city government, Lerchbacker said — especially his ability to listen to different ideas and points of view before making a decision.

“I think it’s the same thing. You have to listen to people and help them take their vision forward, and that’s what I’ve been really good at,” Lerchbacker said.

His assignments in the Navy included running two shipyards and overseeing the recovery of debris from the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. That effort involved 3,000 personnel and 33 ships.

As a civilian, he served as CEO of an Alabama-based ship-building company, and headed a company that built electric vehicles. He works with a private equity firm called the Miller Group, and teaches international business at the University of San Diego. He’s been an Encinitas resident for seven years.

Although this is the first time Lerchbacker has run for office, he did apply to succeed Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan, who died in 2011. The council appointed former Encinitas fire chief Mark Muir to fill the seat.

His top three issues are public safety, enhancing city parks and beaches, and improving infrastructure.

Lerchbacker said he is concerned both about the annual debt service to buy the Pacific View property and the lack of vision for use of the property. City officials are considering a $13 million bond issue to pay for the $10 million Pacific View property and a new lifeguard tower at Moonlight Beach, and the annual debt service could be as high as $815,000 for 30 years.

“We bought a piece of property and we didn’t have a plan, and that’s unfortunate,” he said.

The community will provide an answer for the question of how the property will ultimately be used, he said, and “I’m a person who would listen.”

On development, another hot issue in Encinitas, Lerchbacker explained that during his naval career, he moved more than a dozen times. In each new location, he bought a home and fixed it up, to the delight of his neighbors.

The city’s elected and appointed officials must ensure that development is done in accordance with city and state regulations, and that high standards are maintained.

“If development is done correctly, it can really add value to our city,” he said.

Another key issue is a $39 million unfunded pension liability faced by the city. Lerchbacker said he would support a change in the city’s pension benefits for new hires, providing a less costly 401(k)-style matching plan, instead of the current guaranteed pension.

However, he said he would not favor taking away the benefit from city employees who have worked for the city for many years with the understanding they would receive a pension.

In November, city voters will consider whether to adopt rules that permit and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in Encinitas. While he said he understands that marijuana, and its derivatives, can provide relief to people with cancer and other illnesses, Lerchbacker said he opposes the measure, called Prop. F, because he doesn’t want to see dispensaries operating in the city.

Patients can obtain drugs with marijuana’s active ingredient through their pharmacy, he said.

On the fundraising front, Lerchbacker has contributed $5,000 to his campaign from his personal funds, but reported no other contributions on his latest campaign statement.

He said he has received an endorsement from the Republican Party of San Diego County, but will be courting support from people of all political persuasions for the officially non-partisan City Council seat, including Democrats and independents.

With his leadership skills and background in the military and business, Lerchbacker said, he is eager to listen to the ideas of local residents, and be a “team builder for the city.”