Jefferson Wagner opts out of council race

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Jefferson Wagner

The current city councilmember cites time restrictions as the reason behind his decision not to run for a second term on the city council.

By Homaira Shifa / Special to The Malibu Times

With the filing period ending Jan. 18, City Councilmember Jefferson Wagner announced last week that he would not seek a second term on Malibu’s governing body, citing time restrictions.

“It takes a lot of time to be a councilmember,” said Wagner, who estimated he spends 14 to 20 hours per week on his council duties. “And I won’t have that kind of time for the next year or two.”

Wagner owns a surf shop and is the concessionaire for the Malibu Pier, but he makes his living through contracts with the U.S. military, which often cause him to leave the city for 10 or more days at a time. Wagner plans to be busier with that work in the future, and he said it would diminish his effectiveness as a public official.

“It’s not fair for the city to carry my load and burden when I’m out,” Wagner said.

Wagner was elected in 2008 when he came in second after Pamela Conley Ulich, and John Sibert placed third. Kathy Wisnicki and Susan Tellem came in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Sibert, the only other incumbent running for re-election, lauded Wagner as an effective councilmember who has worked hard to do a good job.

“I’ve built a good working relationship with Wagner in the last four years and if I get re-elected I’m really going to miss him,” Sibert said.

Wagner’s decision not to run puts the status of several of his appointments to various city commissions up in the air. Wagner appointed John Mazza to the planning commission, Steve Karsh to public works, Mark Wetton to parks and recreation, Ryan Embree to telecommunications and Susan Tellem to public safety.

Tellem said she was sad to see Wagner leave, calling him “one of the most fair-minded of all the councilmembers.” Still, Tellem said she likes the current city leadership and would put in an application for another term on the safety commission.

“He (Wagner) has to follow his heart and do what’s right for him,” Tellem said. “But I really like our city council right now. I wish it would continue the way it is for the next four years.”

There are three open seats in this election, at least two of which will be occupied by new faces. Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich is term-limited and cannot run again, while Sibert faces re-election. As of Tuesday, four candidates had returned nomination packets to become official candidates, with four potential candidates yet to return the nomination packet.

Andy Lyon was the first official candidate when he returned his nomination packet along with at least 20 signatures from registered Malibu voters. Incumbent Sibert and former councilmember Joan House also became official candidates on Friday, and former councilmember Missy Zeitsoff turned in her papers Tuesday.

Other potential candidates who have pulled papers include Hans Laetz, Skylar Peak, Hamish Patterson, Jack Utter and Bobby Heyward. They had until Jan. 18 to return their completed papers along with signatures to City Hall. Election day is April 10.

Wagner did not rule out the possibility of another run for city council in 2014, especially if incumbents Laura Rosenthal and Lou La Monte decide not to run for re-election.

“I would certainly like to do this again, but without the time restraints I have now,” Wagner said. “If one of them decided not to run I’d definitely step in.”

Wagner is an explosives expert who originally made his living doing special effects in the film industry. When film shoots began to be outsourced overseas and out of state, Wagner said he started applying for contracts with the military to put its troops through “opposing force” training-or as he puts it, “Come in and do all the missions as the bad guy.”

That training, which involves Wagner’s company role-playing as enemy forces as well as explosives and firearms training, has taken Wagner as far away as Hawaii, which became taxing.

“It’s hard to go back and forth from the base as I had been doing, get enough sleep. Then be fresh-shaven, out of the military garb and the ‘Yes sir, no sir’ and come out to this civilian format where everybody’s a general.

“In the civic world, the attacks are personal and deeper. In the military it’s all for training.”