Vanderlaan to return as LAFCO chair
Last updated 1/17/2008 at Noon
Bonsall resident Andy Vanderlaan will be the chair of San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission for the third year in a row.
Vanderlaan, who is the public member on the LAFCO board, was re-elected as LAFCO chair December 3. County Supervisor Bill Horn was also re-elected as LAFCO’s vice chair and will serve a third consecutive year in that position.
“I was quite pleased that they wanted me to serve again,” Vanderlaan said. “I will be happy to serve in that capacity.”
Normally the LAFCO vice-chair becomes chair for the following year. However, LAFCO has been in the process of reorganizing fire protection and emergency medical services in unincorporated San Diego County and the retention of Vanderlaan and Horn allows for continuity.
“The challenges are still there with this reorganization,” Vanderlaan said. “The money is an issue, but I think we have a committed group. The commission is committed to moving forward.”
The LAFCO board voted 8-0 to retain Vanderlaan and Horn in their positions. “I think that we have a team already established, and we’re working on a big project,” said LAFCO commissioner Bud Pocklington.
LAFCO’s options included promoting Horn to chair and selecting a new vice-chair as well as retaining the 2007 officers for 2008. “I didn’t expect it,” Vanderlaan said of his third consecutive term as chair. “I wasn’t quite sure what they wanted to do.”
Prior to Vanderlaan’s consecutive terms LAFCO had previously retained a previous year’s chair from time to time in order to maintain the leadership for ongoing projects. LAFCO handles jurisdictional boundary changes including incorporations, annexations, consolidations, and detachments.
The LAFCO board consists of two County Supervisors (currently Dianne Jacob and Horn), one City Council representative from San Diego (currently Toni Atkins), two city Council members from the county’s other 17 incorporated cites (currently Betty Rexford of Poway and Carl Hilliard of Del Mar), two members from special districts (currently Pocklington of the South Bay Irrigation District and Andy Menshek of the Padre Dam Municipal Water District), and one public member.
In addition to his position as a LAFCO board member, Vanderlaan has previous experience with fire district consolidation. He was fire chief of the Fallbrook Fire Protection District in 1986 when that agency transitioned to the North County Fire Protection District after merging with the County Service Area which provided fire protection to Rainbow and adding the previously-unserved Gavilan Mountain area.
The Fallbrook Fire Protection District covered fewer than 60 square miles when Vanderlaan became its fire chief and now encompasses 92 square miles. The 1986 consolidation also included initial discussions about including DeLuz, but the citizens there were reluctant to annex.
Vanderlaan was also the fire chief when LAFCO oversaw two attempts by Fallbrook citizens to incorporate as a city. Those efforts ended with rejection in 1981 and 1988 elections.
Since the fire department includes part of Bonsall and LAFCO-related law does not allow conversion of a special district into a city department if a certain percentage of the population or territory is outside the new city, the fire district would have remained independent had Fallbrook become a city.
Vanderlaan replaced Ed Thurber, the original chief of the Fallbrook Fire Protection District (which was officially called the Fallbrook Local Fire Protection District when it was founded in 1930), in 1976 and retired at the end of 1995.
Vanderlaan grew up in West Covina and began his career with the Covina Fire Department. After 3 1/2 years with the Covina firefighters, he spent 9 1/2 years at the Huntington Beach Fire Department.
In 1976 Vanderlaan came to Fallbrook as the assistant fire chief and became the fire chief when Thurber retired sooner than expected. After his retirement from the North County Fire Protection District, Vanderlaan also served as the executive director of the Western Fire Chiefs Association.
While Vanderlaan was fire chief of the Fallbrook agency, the fire department also added paramedic service, went from two to five stations, transitioned from volunteers to reserves, implemented the Explorer program, and survived financial changes due to Proposition 13 and the state ERAF shift of funds from special districts to education.
Vanderlaan also obtained automatic aid agreements with Vista and Camp Pendleton (the Camp Pendleton fire station at the Naval Weapons Station is within a mile of the North County Fire Protection District and often helps on fires in the Downtown Fallbrook area).
Under Thurber the Fallbrook Fire Protection District obtained radio frequencies to become the first fire department in the county to have two-way radio and also provided the county’s first ambulance service, starting with a 1954 Packard and then obtaining a 1959 Cadillac.
Thurber’s tenure also saw the fire department purchase the old high school facility, sell the gymnasium to the Boys and Girls Club, and build its new headquarters and station.
Vanderlaan’s work with LAFCO during his time as fire chief led him to apply for the public member position when that seat had an opening in 1996. He was appointed as LAFCO’s public member that year and was re-appointed to additional four-year terms in 2000 and 2004.
“It’s a great organization. Our San Diego LAFCO continues to get awards for its pursuit of excellence,” Vanderlaan said.
Vanderlaan took over as LAFCO chair from Pocklington in 2006. He had also previously served as the LAFCO chair in 2001, when he succeeded Julianne Nygaard (then a member of the Carlsbad City Council), and as vice-chair in 2000 he chaired one meeting in Nygaard’s absence.
Although consolidations have occurred infrequently in recent years and no city has incorporated since Encinitas and Solana Beach in 1986, small annexations and detachments result in San Diego LAFCO processing numerous boundary changes each year.
In 1999 LAFCO addressed the issue of property tax transfer to fire protection districts annexing property by forming the Task Force on Fire Protection Funding, which also addressed other funding needs involving the fire service.
In 2000 the task force became independent from LAFCO in order to allow for the advocacy of recommendations, and the task force was renamed as the Task Force on Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Services. Vanderlaan has served as the vice-chair of the task force for its entire existence.
Vanderlaan’s post-retirement activities included a year as president of the Boys and Girls Club. He has also coached basketball at the Boys and Girls Club, and he is currently the coach of the Fallbrook High School junior varsity girls team and the Potter Junior High School girls basketball team.
In December 2007 the LAFCO board sent a reorganization proposal to the Board of Supervisors. LAFCO will approve the actual jurisdictional changes after a secure funding source is obtained.
“I think for the 2008 year that’s going to be one of the relevant issues for us,” Vanderlaan said.
LAFCO’s other issues in 2008 are undetermined. The programmatic environmental impact report for the reorganization of the San Luis Rey Municipal Water District is being challenged in court and the water district’s future might not reach LAFCO until after 2008.
A petition drive in Rancho Santa Fe for LAFCO to consider incorporation of that town may or may not be successful, and if the signatures are sufficient appropriate studies may or may not be ready for the LAFCO board by December 2008.
“We have an excellent staff and a good commission,” Vanderlaan said. “We’re moving forward in a way I think is positive for the citizens of San Diego County.”