Rick Mullen is a Malibu fire captain, retired Marine and current city council member running for re-election. He has been a Malibu resident since 1990.
This is an abridged version of a much longer Q&A. We encourage our readers to read the text, in full, here.
In five words or less, what is the theme of your campaign?
Support the mission statement of Malibu.
When you ran for council the first time, you were on a slate with Council Members Peak and Wagner. Do you expect to carry the same voters that you did as a slate in 2016, now that you’re running alone?
I certainly hope so. When I ran, I made it clear we would place as our guiding directive the mission statement of the City of Malibu ... If I put myself in the position of somebody who voted for me four years ago, I think that they would say, “He lived up to his vow of what he said he was going to do.” I made it very clear what I wanted to do and I fulfilled that.
During the Woolsey Fire, you were mayor and you were in and out of communication for several days, during the evacuation, during the fire storm, during the immediate aftermath. Obviously, you’re busy defending homes and you’re really in the thick of it. But do you think there’s a conflict there when Malibu needs leadership at a time of crisis, being that that’s your day job?
Initially? Yeah, possibly. I was actually in fairly good communication through a lot of that with the city manager ... Elected officials have three basic functions—pass legislation in support of the disaster ... interact with other elected officials in support of the overall effort ... interact with the media. I did so many interviews it wasn’t funny ... KNX, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News. Those are all things that I did in spades throughout the course of the event ... Now, during the key moments of evacuating the town, yeah, I wasn’t out there with a bullhorn directing traffic. But I was in pretty darn good communication with the city manager throughout. There were people who did an investigation of what I did after the fire. They went into all my communications; even they were like, “Oh, you actually did a lot of stuff.”
There are people who perceive a conflict with the fact that, as the LA Times wrote in 2018, you have made a lot of money working overtime at the fire station. Do you find it difficult to balance working so many hours at the fire station with time on council?
The way I approach things with the city council meetings is, I read all the material ahead of time. On the day of the meeting, I print everything out, all the communication from everybody, and if I haven’t already talked to them, I talk to them. I make sure I become as literate as possible ... These are legacy issues from the 2008 financial crisis. The fire department’s way of handling that was, “Don’t hire guys for a long time” and it created some problems ... [One paramedic], when he read that [LA Times] article, said, “As far as I’m concerned, they should make a statue of you because it was guys like you that were willing to work down as a fireman for less pay”— which I did, numerous times—”so that I could go home and see my son.” Every day I worked meant some guy could go home and be with his son or daughter. There’s more to the story than meets the eye.
How do you feel about Bluffs Park going back to the MRCA? And what options are left for youth sports and other community amenities at this point?
I was very disappointed with that. [Former Mayor] Lou La Monte did Malibu a good service when he did that swap. And it was actually a good thing for the [Santa Monica Mountains] Conservancy, too ... I think it was a better thing for the 80 acres to be in the hands of the City of Malibu. I didn’t agree with making baseball fields, et cetera, there, because I thought that was kind of trying to shoehorn too much into land that really wasn’t as usable. I know why Jefferson [Wagner] and Skylar [Peak] did it, but I was very disappointed in [Council Member] Mikke Pierson because he ... actually said in the meeting he didn’t know that much about it. And we pretty much begged him to not make a decision and he just shot from the hip ... [MRCA/SMMC Executive Director] Joe Edmiston inside the city of Malibu can create a lot of problems.
Are you concerned with falling enrollment at Malibu schools?
I’m a big believer in us getting control of our schools and making them absolutely world class. I think we have a great opportunity to do that. I really appreciate Karen [Farrer]’s depth of knowledge on this because she’s been at this fight for a long time. She and I are on the subcommittee that deals with school separation. When we first got involved, it was frustrating dealing with Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District Board. That’s [an] agency that holds most of the cards and they don’t want to make a deal. But I think in the end, the deal will be had.
We’ve asked every other candidate so far if they were ready to handle the level of scrutiny from the public, including some hate mail. You’ve seen your share of hate mail, including threats, calls and letters. How have you handled that pressure? And are you ready for four more years of it?
It doesn’t bother me as much, strangely enough. It’s the great revealer for the way people communicate with you. And there are some people that I kind of think, “Oh, if that person is bad mouthing me, then I’m doing something right.” OK. There’s a little bit of that. I’ve had recall petitions, I’ve had investigations, they’ve done investigations through my other job, through the fire department. My attitude is, the deeper they dig, the cleaner I get. You want to badmouth me? I got no problem with that.