The City of Del Mar’s longest-serving employee is retiring on Tuesday after 47 years, with many of them spent on the beach.
Eric Sandy, 72, was hired as an Animal Regulation/Beach Enforcement Officer in 1972 and is retiring as a Lieutenant for the City’s Community Services Department, where he oversees three full-time and 12 part-time enforcement officers.
On Monday -- at a City Council meeting attended by his mother, wife, brother and dozens of well-wishers – Sandy received an official proclamation (PDF) from Mayor Dave Druker.
Sandy redirected praise from the mayor toward colleagues and community members. He quipped that he had been working in Del Mar longer than some of his colleagues had been alive.
Decades ago, Sandy came to Del Mar on a referral from his roommate at the time, lifeguard Jack Ross.
“That’s when a busy day in June would have 200 people on the beach -- and we knew most of them,” Sandy said.
As the Animal Regulation Officer, he also knew their dogs. Sandy and fellow officer Howard Fisher patrolled the beach in an old post office jeep.
“Our duty was to take the dog back to the resident,” he said. “The dogs would jump into the jeep and ride with us. They trusted us.”
On one shift, Sandy wrapped himself in a lifeguard’s rescue tube to descend a sandstone cliff to rescue a Labrador that was stuck below. Sandy took the dog in his arms. As men above hoisted man and dog to safety, “the big lab was licking my face the whole way up,” he said.
Sandy said his first boss in Del Mar, the late lifeguard Capt. Gardner Stevens, told him to be nice to all of the people on the beach. “That’s how we do things.” Sandy teaches that same lesson to new lifeguards today, he said.
As Del Mar and surrounding areas grew, so did Sandy as civil servant and a scholar. In 1983, he earned a Master’s degree in social science from San Diego State University and later earned a Master’s degree in human resources from Chapman University.
Starting 16 years ago, he funneled his academic training and experience in public service into a second career as a mediator and hearing officer – “my coat and tie job downtown” – for the National Conflict Resolution Center.
In that role, Sandy has trained Sheriff’s deputies, taught social skills to inmates in a county jail, presided over hearings at the County of San Diego and San Diego Housing Authority and has performed trainings “with great results” at inner-city high schools for students who have had brushes with police. Those sessions, he said, keep kids out of jail.
Dispute resolution training is valuable for any law enforcement officer, Sandy said, including those who write parking tickets for the City of Del Mar.
The approach, in a nutshell, is to deal with people in a civil manner, to avoid escalating a situation, and “to spend much less time arguing and getting people angry and much more time getting back to the job.”
Sandy plans to continue his work with National Conflict Resolution Center.
Eric Sandy was born in Peterborough, England, and came to Pittsburg at age 10. His family crossed the Atlantic aboard the Queen Mary.
Years later, he joined the Navy “to see the world and travel.” As a Navy sailor, he made two trips to Vietnam.
Reflecting on his career in Del Mar, Sandy recalled the old lifeguard station at 17th Street and the pounding it took during an El Niño winter in 1989.
“The waves were hitting the deck and the whole place was shaking,” Sandy said. “Reporters asked, ‘What’s keeping the building together?’ It’s the people who work here. That’s what makes this place function. They could do the same job in a tent.
Watch a video paying tribute to Eric Sandy.