On April 29, 2021 Blair King’s tenure as the City Manager for the City of Coronado will come to an end. King formally submitted his resignation at the March 16, 2021 City Council meeting and announced he has accepted a position as City Manager of Bainbridge Island, Washington.
“It has been my honor to serve as your City Manager,” King read in a statement to the council. “I am pleased that I was able to continue the trajectory of a financially strong municipal cooperation, addressing the long-term replacement of capital facilities and mitigation of pension costs.”
King was hired in March 2010 by a council that included Mayor Casey Tanaka and councilmembers Mike Woiwode, Carrie Downey, Barbara Denny, and Al Ovrom. “I hope that I have met their expectations. I am very appreciative of their confidence in me and I hope they can look back with satisfaction that they made the right decision in hiring me,” said King of the 2010 City Council.
Former councilmember Carrie Downey affirmed the choice, “I had the challenging job of being on the City council when our well liked and successful City Manager Mark Ochenduszko retired, and Coronado sought a replacement to fill Mark’s big shoes. We were blessed that Blair King chose to bring his ample experience in complicated City finances to help Coronado. Blair successfully shepherded Coronado through, the end of the Coronado Redevelopment Agency, the Great Recession from 2008-2012, the fight with the State of California to be able to repay the City of Coronado’s General Fund as redevelopment was unwound, and now the loss of almost 1/3 of our city revenue from TOT and Sales Tax due to COVID 19 required closures. Coronado is the financially healthiest city in the County currently thanks largely to Blair’s sage administration and leadership.”
King’s list of accomplishments is long. He stewarded major redevelopment and capital projects such as the Glorietta Tennis Center, the Boathouse, Spreckels Center, the Pomona roundabout, and updates to the skatepark, boat marina, and the clubhouse at the golf course. During his tenure the Village Theater reopened, affordable housing projects on Orange Avenue were completed, and multiple public art projects were installed. “One thing I always smile about when I drive by, is the bathroom at Spreckels Park. We put that in.. and that beautiful mosaic,” he remembered.
Under King’s leadership Coronado was one of the first cities in the state to form a Section 115 Pension Trust to stabilize pension rates. During his term the Cultural Arts Commission was formed. The Transportation and Bicycle Advisory Committees were formed - and then combined into the Mobility Commission. He hired two police chiefs, one fire chief, a community development director, a library director and two city clerks. He found efficiencies by merging the Recreational and Golf Services into one department, and centralizing Public Services and Engineering.
King also worked in close collaboration with the Coronado Unified School District and was instrumental in both the creation of the Facilities Joint Use Memorandum of Understanding between the two agencies, and the early payoff of Redevelopment debt to facilitate a better fiscal outlook for local public schools.
After nearly eleven years in Coronado, King is the longest serving city manager in San Diego County [five years is the average]. “To be honest I had a general idea of staying 8 years and then retiring, but that time came and I wasn’t ready. I’m still challenged by this work, but I don’t want to overstay my time here,” he said. In his statement to the council he acknowledged that “meaningful work and strong support from the City Council and the community have kept me here. Now, however, is the appropriate time for me to step away.”
King and his wife, Nancy Adams, have fully immersed themselves in the community. “I think it’s important to understand a community and you can only do that by living in it. We have made connections and friendships and lifelong memories here,” said King.
Two of their three daughters graduated from Coronado High School and Adams is employed by the school district. “Our daughter Taylor was a CHS cheerleader and I really enjoy going to Islander football and basketball games; she graduated years ago and I still go to the games,” he laughed. “And we had a great time following Casey on the CHS Sailing team, even though spectating can be a challenge. Not very many high school students have the opportunity to belong to a sailing team.”
King and Adams also jumped into the island’s club scene. “One of the things I will miss the most are the unofficial ‘clubs’ in town - Beer Club, Crown City Cycle Club, and we were very involved with the dinner-dances of the Crown Club,” King reminisced. He added that he will miss the comfortable banter and familiarity of chatting with people during daily routines and walks in town.
“We will miss the sense of home we feel in Coronado. It is the longest I’ve ever lived in any place as an adult,” commented King.
The King family has cherished memories of their time in Coronado but are eager to head north and explore the Pacific Northwest where they will have the bonus of being closer to family. “Our daughters will be closer and we have nieces and nephews and Nancy’s family in Seattle.”
“I think my experience in Coronado will be a good fit for Bainbridge Island. They have an engaged community with high expectations,” King noted.
King will bring 36 years of local government experience to his new position. Prior to Coronado he was the city manager in Soledad, Imperial Beach, Half Moon Bay, and Lodi. He is also a past President of the San Diego County City County Managers Association and a past Director of the League of California Cities City Managers Department.
The timeline for finding a new city manager in Coronado is fairly short (about six weeks) but the council is expected to appoint an interim city manager to serve while an extensive state-wide search is conducted. King is confident in city staff and will support the council in preparing for the interim. “There are some important projects in the works and coming up but that’s pretty much always the case. It’s never a good time to leave,” he reflected. “The State Housing Element dialogue will continue on both the litigation and pragmatic implementation sides. The Parker Pump Station rebuild, the Recycled Water Plant, labor negotiations and Relinquishment issues are the obvious ones,” said King.
“Blair’s accomplishments are significant, wide-ranging and will have an enduring impact on this community for generations to come. I know I speak for the entire council when I express gratitude for Blair’s dedicated, skilled leadership. Blair will be missed, and we wish him the best in his new role,” said Mayor Richard Bailey in the city’s press statement.
Carrie Downey added, “Blair brought more than financial savvy, [the family] became part of the culture of Coronado. They supported the organizations that make Coronado a community. My three daughters attended CUSD at the same time as two of Blair and Nancy’s daughters, and it has been fun running into them at back to school nights, senior awards, and graduation ceremonies. They represented the best of Coronado. I wish them the best of luck in their new endeavors but will miss them terribly.”