Aug. 9, 2021

The Business of Community: A Conversation with Mayor Matt Hall

On this episode of the Carlsbad People, Purpose, and Impact Podcast, Bret Schanzenbach spoke with Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall about the past, present, and future of the city. They talk about how Mayor Hall became an elected official, the ways that the city is serving the community’s needs, and the newfound collaboration Carlsbad has experienced among neighboring communities due to the pandemic.  

The following material has been edited for clarity and brevity.

In the Business of Serving

Like Bret, Matt Hall grew up in the city of Vista, which is east of Carlsbad. One of Mayor Hall’s close friends and co-workers had a business in South Oceanside, and while Mayor Hall was in the United States Army, the two friends dreamt of buying an automotive business and working together. Before he even got out of the Army, they bought a recycling facility and a tow company in Carlsbad. When he got out of the service in January 1970, Matt Hall moved to Carlsbad where he has served the city ever since.

In 1977, Matt Hall participated in committee meetings to study redevelopment in the Village. Because he and fellow member, Thelma Hayes, had the best attendance record, they were both appointed to the redevelopment committee. This allowed Mayor Hall to be part of starting the Village’s redevelopment. After his time on the committee, he was asked to be on the planning commission, where he served for 10 years. Because any development that is proposed or about to be implemented first goes through the planning commission, Mayor Hall witnessed first-hand how the city’s bureaucracy worked before he was elected as a council member in 1994.

In 2010, Matt Hall was elected mayor of Carlsbad and has brought the same diligence, organization, service, and leadership to the position. “Stepping into mayor was just a natural step, but… it was probably a two-year learning experience,” Mayor Hall admits. “You're not only having to think about the issues, but you're also having to think of the dynamic of the council, the interaction, the dynamic of the citizens and their participation, and trying to balance many different things.”

Holding an elected office is certainly a balancing act. One of the things that Mayor Hall has discovered easily causes an imbalance is “micromanaging the moment [instead of] trying to create tomorrow.” In fact, last year, they had over 100-minute motions. Prior to 2016, they had approximately 10-minute motions the past 20 years.

Mayor Hall’s past business experience has helped him focus on moving forward, even when people disagree on issues. “When you're elected, the citizens put their belief [in you] that you would do a good job running their city,” he explains. “It's like running any other business… often those who are in disagreement will show up in force. So, whether it's 20, 25, or 50 people in the audience, you have to remember in Carlsbad, you're representing at least 118,000.”

His commitment to serve everyone in Carlsbad informs his guiding leadership philosophy: “Look at all sides of the issue and do what's for the greater good of the community.” It is easy to recognize why Matt Hall has been the mayor of Carlsbad for the past eleven years.

Meeting the Needs of the Community

The city of Carlsbad has been proactive in serving its citizens. For example, because the city’s leaders focused on growth management in the past, they are now better able to strategize and create affordable housing based on their community’s needs. Although the state is trying to increase population density near areas of transit—which would result in 4-6 story buildings in Carlsbad’s Village—this action would not be well received by the community. Therefore, the city’s leaders are implementing other strategies to provide affordable housing throughout their city, which have been successful.

Another way Carlsbad is serving the community is through a partnership with other North County mayors to address the growing homeless population. In fact, they recently got 10 additional social workers distributed among their five cities, a move that has definitely assisted them. Helping the homeless population has been a priority in Carlsbad for many years. However, the city cannot do it alone. 

“This is something that the state really needs to step forward on,” Mayor Hall says. “I would challenge our assembly members and our senators to address this. There are people on the street that are really a danger to themselves and the community. They need our help and just putting them in a hotel room and giving them three meals is not going to help them or get them where they need to be. The state needs to provide a service where we can house those people, try and do everything humanly possible to get them off their substance abuse… and get them back into the main street.”

The city of Carlsbad is active in helping support nonprofits and groups that serve the homeless population. Two of the organizations that have projects in Carlsbad include Solutions for Change, a nonprofit that began in Vista, CA, and the Friends of La Posada, a Catholic charity that has served the area for decades.

Another example of the city leaders’ responsiveness to their citizens is when they learned that the emergency response times for those on the coast were being delayed by an additional three or four minutes due to the railway, they began building fire stations close to the coast. The proactive, decisive actions that Carlsbad takes to serve its citizens are a credit to Mayor Hall’s leadership.

Collaboration Along the 78 Corridor

One of the most special things about Carlsbad is that it strives to create the best of times out of the worst of times. There are many ways the city has done this during the past year, and Mayor Hall will celebrate them in detail at the State of the Community Luncheon on August 20th. However, he did share one of his favorite highlights from the past year on the podcast: the collaboration between the Chamber of Commerce and the Merchant’s Association.

Although they would resolve any issues that the business community brought forward in the past, the two organizations did not have a very close working relationship. However, during the pandemic, they came together and became partners. The city council specifically assigned people to address issues the business community had with loans or permits, and when the council members strategized how to help them, they sent multiple surveys to the business sector, adjusting their ideas according to the feedback they received.

Now, those in Carlsbad intend to build upon the partnerships they have established within the city and among the cities surrounding them. In fact, Carlsbad, Escondido, San Marcos, Vista, and Oceanside are working together to bring business to each of their cities and the entire region. This collaboration that was formed and strengthened during the pandemic has positioned the entire North County region to be even more successful as they continue to serve their communities.

If you would like to hear more about Carlsbad businesses that pivoted and thrived despite the pandemic, or about the exciting things happening in Carlsbad, sign up for the State of the Community Luncheon.

Interview Links

Click here to register for the virtual State of the Community Luncheon.

Learn more about Mayor Matt Hall.

Contact Mayor Hall here.


Did you like what you heard? This show is produced by Imagine Podcasting dba of Heard Not Seen Media, Inc. For more, visit Imagine Podcasting.