Doug Stewart is a businessman who has lived in Malibu for over 20 years. He currently serves as a public safety commissioner.
This is an abridged version of a much longer Q&A. We encourage our readers to read the text, in full, here.
Tell me about your history in Malibu and what prepares you to take on this role.
I’ve always had my volunteer hat on here ... I was the chief operating officer of a major company until 2007, when we sold it, and then I had more time to do things here to help the community. I became a CERT team member, advanced my AM radio license so I could be a back-up AM radio in the event of an emergency ... I’m vice chairman of the public safety commission. So, I’ve had my hand trying to help the city as much as I can. Also, I’ve always been a member of my homeowners’ association, usually being the president or vice president or treasurer, to help our little hamlet, as we call it, on Latigo Canyon.
You’ve been doing a lot to prevent or help mitigate the effects of the next fire while on the public safety commission. Why do you need to run for city council?
Because the next steps that need to be done I think I can handle better at city council. Getting the rest of the evacuation plans in effect, the alert system in effect, dealing with the budget problems. What I do in public safety is just a minor part of what I used to do in my corporate life. And I’m looking at where the needs are, and we’ve got financial issues, we’ve got governance issues, we’ve got public safety issues. So if anybody is qualified to do it, I feel like I am, and since no one else seems to be stepping up at the experience level that I have, then I feel like I need to do it. The old classic line: “If not me, then who?”
Do you feel you have the name recognition needed to win the election?
You know, this is a town of 12,000 people. Probably my biggest shortfall is people don’t know me. That’s one of the things I’m working on very diligently: trying to talk to as many people as I can, meet and greet wherever I can, get my exposure out, because I think once people know me, I’m a very qualified candidate.
The city manager is predicting there’s going be a crisis in the budget next year because of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Where would you propose to cut from the budget?
There’s going to have to be a focus on trying to control the staff expense because that’s a major expense for us. Then, we’ve got to see if we can do anything with some of the fixed costs ... That may mean going to the sheriff’s department and seeing if we can get the same coverage for less or try and mitigate how we spend money today. This is going to be a line-by-line budget analysis. One of the things I think is really critical is you’re going to have to look at the staffing numbers in City Hall and say, “Do we really need all these people doing the job that we used to do?”
With MRCA, you’ve called—on your campaign website—the way that they treat Malibu citizens and their property “deplorable”?
Do you feel like that’s a good sign for a good relationship with them going forward?
Look, you’ve got to have an idea of what your counterparty is in every negotiation. This is going to have to be a negotiation with MRCA. They also have to realize where you’re coming from and we know where they’re coming from. They’ve told us very clearly what their attitude is. We have to be clear on what ours is ... You have to be assertive and work to build a consensus.
What makes you different from all the other candidates?
This is a big business. I’m used to running a big business. We have a $60 million-a-year budget. Most of the people that are running on this campaign have experience in their own little niches. But I’m the only one that’s actually run major businesses with budgets like this, staffs much larger than we have for city hall. I know what we’re facing, I know what needs to be done to run an operation well and efficiently. So, that’s what I bring to the table.
I see your point that your business experience definitely would help, but at the same time, city council is not a business because there’s a huge public service component to it, as well. In that way, it would differ from a really big company.
I think you’re wrong there.
How many schools have suddenly become dependent on Zoom? That is a public safety, public service kind of a business right now. It’s no different than working for the city. We have to provide necessary services ... So, yeah, it’s got a different name on the door, but you still have constituencies that you have to work with and support and make sure they’re taken care of, and that’s true whether or not it’s a business or you’re in government.
What do you think is the No. 1 issue facing Malibu today and what are you going to do in your first year in office to tackle it?
The strategic issue we’ve got is how we’re going to pay our bills. We’re in financial dire straits. We’re going to have to live within our means and it’s going to be a tough two to three years, guaranteed. That’s the reason why I think somebody with my experience ought to be on the city council.