Col Paul “Mac” McNamara USMC (Ret): A unifying leader for Escondido

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Col Paul McNamara USMC (Ret)

A retired Marine Colonel will challenge incumbent Escondido mayor Sam Abed, who is seeking a third term, in next year’s election, because, “It is time for a change, and Escondido is headed in the wrong direction.” A retired Marine Colonel will challenge incumbent Escondido mayor Sam Abed, who is seeking a third term, in next year’s election, because, “It is time for a change, and Escondido is headed in the wrong direction.”

Paul “Mac” McNamara, besides serving nearly 28 years as a Marine, is currently the Executive Director of the MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) Museum Foundation. “After almost eight years of Sam Abed as mayor, we need to restore American values to our decisions, establish a vision for our city and its future, and return Escondido to its promise of being the city of choice,” he said.

A new path forward is imperative, according to McNamara. “Sam doesn’t reflect American values,” he said. “He has not created a sense of community, and in fact, pits us against each other. He doesn’t look for common ground. Our city is not moving in the right direction. We need leadership, but Sam is not a leader.  He does not have a successful track record. He does not understand who we are as a community.”

Citing the many legal quagmires that have plagued Escondido under Abed, McNamara promises a fresh approach. “I have long been concerned about the frequent lawsuits against the city, which we lose because we broke the law. The millions of dollars these lawsuits cost should have gone to city services. And we are not friendly to small businesses. We must encourage businesses to open up in our city.” McNamara understands their concerns, because he has experience as a successful small business owner and entrepreneur, starting two companies.

Besides his knowledge of small business, McNamara has a range of qualifications, including a lifetime of organizational leadership between government and private organizations. “I have embraced American values in each job, along with fiscal responsibility, but also compassion and respect for those affected. In the Marine Corps I handled large budgets and complex processes. And I am engaged in the community as a volunteer, aware of the challenges at all levels of what the community faces.”

Strong Positions on Issues    

If elected mayor, McNamara cited his three top priorities. First, he would develop a sense of community.  “We need to work together to solve our city’s problems,” he said. Second, he would develop partnerships with the city’s private organizations, many of which are already addressing many of the challenges facing Escondido, according to McNamara. Finally, he would ensure the city’s budget reflects the priorities of all the residents of the city and not just a few.

The current council majority has been too cozy with developers, according to many critics. McNamara says he understands that some growth, and by extension some development, are inevitable. Regarding the concept that new development, rather than existing residents, should pay for the impacts of that growth, he said, “This is always a challenging question and it has no simple answer.  In cases where new development benefits the residents of the city, then the residents should bear some of the costs.  In cases where the developer benefits then the developer should bear the costs.”

However, McNamara is wary of development proposals in rural and semi-rural areas around Escondido, including Safari Highlands (in San Pasqual Valley), Newland Sierra (on Merriam Mountain, northwest of Escondido), and Harmony Grove Village South. “We need to take the extra step to ensure our development plans meet the test of time, improve our city and pass the good neighbor test.  “As currently proposed, I am against those specific projects.”      The potential privatization of Escondido’s public library also has McNamara alarmed. “I am against this effort,” he said. “Among many reasons, it sends the wrong signal to those outside our community who look to invest, work, live, and play here.”

Community Building   

 One of the keys to a vibrant community, according to McNamara, who is married and has children, is a strong recreational program. “For the most part, recreational services are part of the makeup of a city’s character,” he said. “City budgets reflect what we think is important. If we demand that a recreational service must ‘pay its own way,’ that tells the world what we think is the value of that service. It’s hard for me to imagine someone wanting to move, invest or raise their family here if everything requires the purchase of a ticket.”

As the Executive Director of a Foundation, which has as one of its main purposes historic preservation, McNamara certainly supports it in Escondido. “Historic preservation’s purpose goes way beyond the maintenance of something, but rather offers a community a sense of itself,” he said. “It teaches values, it brings us together, and it makes us a community.”     Homeless services, too, help shape a city’s character, according to McNamara. “Our city is a city of values and faith,” he said. “Abandoning the homeless is contrary to our faith values and our American values.  This country has a long history of helping those who need help.  Our city should support and partner with those organizations which address the homeless issue.”    Open spaces and outdoor recreation are yet another priority for McNamara. “One of the best things this city did was purchase Daley Ranch,” he said.  “We should support its continuation as one of the gems of this city.”

Grass Roots Effort

McNamara is optimistic about his chances, despite facing an incumbent with a history of raising big money, especially from out-of-town developer interests. “It will be a grass roots campaign that will establish partnerships with concerned citizens,” he said. “So the day after the election will not be the first day of discussion about a problem, but rather it will be the first day of executing solutions.”

Citing widespread support, McNamara feels confident about running. “We only recently announced my candidacy, and one of the reasons for this decision was that I had support from both sides of the aisle. I also have the backing of several groups that are focused on a particular issue. Those groups and names will be listed on my website.”

As an active member of the Escondido community, McNamara is well connected and should expect to generate momentum from many corners. He serves on the Executive Board as President-elect of the Escondido Rotary Club, he was formerly on the Executive Board of the Escondido Charitable Foundation, but remains a member, and until recently the Executive Board of Girls Incorporated of San Diego. He is a lifetime member of the Marine Corps Association, the Marine Corps Aviation Association, the Disabled American Veterans, and the MCRD Museum Foundation. Also, he is currently serving as an elected trustee of the Palomar Community College Governing Board.  Humble Beginnings     Born in 1953 in Philadelphia, McNamara grew up in Upper Darby, PA. He is the youngest of five children, and the only one who graduated from college.

Some of McNamara’s teachers instilled a strong sense of social justice, including one high school teacher who was a Dutch Nazi work camp survivor, who, despite the horrors he witnessed, taught young McNamara that “good people” are needed to stop the wrongs of the world.     McNamara was active and ambitious from the start. He played high school sports and earned Eagle Scout status with an environmental project. He accepted a NROTC scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, working some years 40 hours a week to help pay his way.  He graduated in 1975, after being exposed to a progressive student body, and the social issues of the time. The experience challenged his K-12 construct of what is right and wrong, and forged his beliefs in social justice and correcting institutional wrongs.

Impressive Resume     

Upon graduation, McNamara was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marines. His assignments included tours across the country and overseas,. He participated in numerous Marine Corps operations over the course of his career. As an infantry officer he helped conduct a non-combatant evacuation of Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war. He served as a platoon and company commander as well as a Battalion Staff Officer. He later attended flight school, and was chosen to attend the highly selective Weapons and Tactics Instructor course.     He commanded both a Marine Helicopter Squadron and Marine Aircraft Group. McNamara returned to Lebanon and supported operations there and participated in Operation Desert Storm. He flew in support of relief operations during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, in the Philippines. He also supported other hurricane and natural disaster relief operations.

Later, McNamara served on diplomatic duty as an attaché for the Defense Intelligence Agency, in Mexico City. During this assignment, he focused on insurgency operations, principally in Chiapas, Mexico from the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), and was at one point detained/held by them.  Additionally, he focused on counter drug efforts and the smuggling/human trafficking of Chinese immigrants.

McNamara also served as the 3D Marine Aircraft Wing Chief of Staff, under Major General Bolden, now the head of NASA, and the Chief of Staff for the First Marine Expeditionary Force, serving with BG Jim Mattis, now Secretary of Defense, then the Deputy CG. In that role, he led the staff in the planning and execution of immediate post 9/11 Marine Corps operational activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of the world. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for those efforts.

In his current position at the MCRD Museum Foundation, McNamara expanded the impact of the Foundation through the development of outreach programs affecting youth, especially at-risk youth, and veterans. Prior to this role, he held a number of positions:· General Manager for a SDVOSB, an LLC that specialized in analysis and technical and engineering services.· General Manager of a joint venture between Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiians, turning the company around.· Corporate leadership roles for Information Systems, including the Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Shee Atika Technology, which led strategic analysis teams for architecture design and hardware and software procurement.· VP and COO of Technology Intelligence International, where he helped develop Information Architecture products for the navy and  Marine Corps.· Program Manager for JAYCOR Defense Systems Titan Corp., serving as the Chief Technical Advisor to the Marine Commandant and developing IT strategy.· Advisor to the program manager for the development of the Deployable Joint Command and Control effort.

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