10 Questions with Kathleen Kooiman, helping everyone reach the beach


Kathleen Kooiman, CEO of Friends of Cardiff and Carlsbad State Beaches (FCCSB), has been a CEO/CFO for most of her career at for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

Her work has taken her to Washington, D.C., New York, Georgia, Louisiana, Singapore and Costa Rica.

“It has been a wonderful journey,” she says, “and I am blessed to have had opportunities to work with internal and external stakeholders who ultimately became mentors and good friends.”

As head of the FCCSB, a nonprofit State Parks Cooperating Association, her mission is to partner with California State Parks and community organizations in Cardiff and Carlsbad to promote environmental awareness and keep the beaches and campgrounds accessible and enjoyable for all. “That sounds like a tall order, and it is because our beaches and campgrounds serve over 5.2 million visitors per year,” she notes.

Kooiman is also a board member for the California League of Park Associations, an advocacy group of more than 81 co-operative associations, like FCCSB. Together, they advocate for Senate and Assembly bills that affect the parks, and they work with the California Parks Foundation. Right now the league is working with the Transformation Team developed by the Parks Forward Commission, appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

For the past 16 years, she has been a chaplain for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, recently promoted to Chief Senior Chaplain, and she is a member of Women Leaders in Law Enforcement.

Married, she has a daughter, son-in-law, a grandchild and another on the way (“there will be two by the time this is published”).

What brought you to this area?My husband and I love to surf and camp at South Carlsbad State Beach and San Elijo State Beach and have for many years. My father lived in Carlsbad, and I think of him every time I am here. I love the state park beaches from Tamarack to the Tijuana border and get so much inspiration and restoration being near and around the beaches and state parks. Encinitas is one of my favorite cities — with its eclectic cool vibe and great eats.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about Encinitas, what would it be?

I love Encinitas, the people, and its sense of place and time. I would add the rest of my family to this area so we can be close and they could experience it every day. I would bring everyone I love here so we could all be together, and if I could, I would bring my father back.

Who or what inspires you?

When I am at our beaches and campgrounds and experience the beauty and the peace of the ocean and the heavens, I sense God’s presence and His love for all of us. It drives the passion I have to protect our environment and the natural resources we have to help ensure generations to come can enjoy it as well.

If you were having a dinner party, which eight people, living or dead, would you invite?

Wow, I would invite the city of Encinitas and just have rotating chairs all night so I could give something back to the people who have blessed me so much. Of course, I would have to start somewhere so I would invite the members of my Board of Directors and try to get to know them better. We work together on some important issues, but getting personal would really feel good — they are amazing people.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your work?

The most challenging aspect of what I do is needing help and not yet being in the place to hire people. But seriously, growing an organization is not always easy and nonprofits are a little “messy” — although I wouldn’t change a thing.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?

The most rewarding aspect is working with the state parks — working alongside the leadership who has an unstoppable vision for “common ground.” And access for all to the parks and beaches. I believe every person should be exposed to the restorative power of the beaches and parks, and to work with those who have committed their lives to this vision is really an honor.

What do you do for fun?

For fun, I like to surf and I like to camp. I just got a new paddle board and am still finding my “legs,” but it is so fun. I try to make all my meetings on the beach or at the San Elijo or Carlsbad campground and be outside. I am watching the World Series right now and rooting for the Mets (no judging, now). Other than that, I enjoy “gaming” — computer gaming, not gambling. And I enjoy hanging out with my family and friends — really, nothing beats this last part.

What is it you most dislike?

If you ask me what I most dislike it is gossip. It causes so much harm and so much pain for people. I run from those who engage in it.

What’s next on your project list?

I hope to take our recycling project down to the border of Mexico and continue to assist the state parks in meeting/exceeding their diversion rates from the landfill, and I would like to see us repair every stair and handrail in the San Eijio area. And in Carlsbad, so everyone has access to the beach. At the same time, I want to really grow Friends of Cardiff and Carlsbad State Beaches so that I can leave a legacy that was started by our founders.

What’s your motto or philosophy of life?

My philosophy of life is “Just be like water — when it is blocked, it just pools and flows in another direction.”