Meet the RSF Association board candidates

Three candidates are running for two Rancho Santa Fe Association board seats with Sharon Ruhnau going up against incumbents Mike Gallagher and Fred Wasserman. Below, in alphabetical order, is biographical information about the candidates and their answers to three questions. The RSF Association’s Annual Meeting and candidate forum will be held on Thursday, May 10 at 5 p.m. at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club. Ballots will be mailed that day and will be due back by June 11. The ballots will be counted at the Association board’s meeting on June 12.

Michael Gallagher
Michael Gallagher Courtesy


Occupation: Retired CEO of Playtex Products

Years Living in RSF Covenant: Thirteen

Community activities: In November I was appointed to fill a vacated seat on the Association board. I am also serving on the Long Range Planning Committee of the RSF Golf Club, the ad hoc Water Committee, and as board liaison to the Osuna Ranch Committee.

Education: BS and MBA - University of California, Berkeley.

Why are you running for a seat on the Association board?

Since November, I initiated a 5-Year Strategic Planning Process and have worked directly with the Tennis Club, Golf Club, Osuna Ranch and the General Services team to identify their key goals and initiatives, action plans for each goal, and 5-year capital plans and P&L forecasts. These plans should become helpful tools for each organization to create an alignment on issues and a focus on achievement.

I would like to continue to work on this approach to accomplishing key initiatives by developing an overall Association 5-Year Strategic Plan that would provide continuity of effort as new board members rotate onto the board.

What do you think are the biggest issues facing the RSF Association/Covenant?

Infrastructure. The board must execute the fiber optic project on time and within budget, enrolling the greatest number of users to ensure financial success. We must develop a long-term, forceful plan to see that SDG&E undergrounds as many utility poles as is financially viable. The effort to develop a more intelligent way to rate water usage must be ongoing. We must energize our coordination with the County on a specific plan to repave our roads.

Amenities. The board should work with Village landlords to attract the types of businesses that make the Village complete. We should use the internet more frequently to tap into the ideas of all residents as to how we can do more for all demographic groups in our community.

Property Values. We live in a competitive housing market. The Covenant has distinct advantages over neighboring communities. We should work smartly to market these advantages in order to attract and convince potential new residents that this is the best community for families with young children, working families and retirees.

How do you think your experience can help address some of these issues and others that come before the RSF Association board?

My 38 years in consumer brand management have taught me to focus on issues, examine alternative solutions, gather consensus, create a positive team commitment and execute with energy. I do not believe that it is responsible to ignore issues, leaving them for someone else to deal with later.

I have been fortunate to serve on a broad array of boards- corporate, trade associations, community and school. I understand that a Director’s role is to set goals and to ensure that the capabilities are in place to achieve success. The Association’s professional staff should be at the forefront of all projects.

Our community is special and unique. I would like to help make it even better.

Sharon Ruhnau
Sharon Ruhnau Courtesy


Occupation: Attorney

Years living in RSF Covenant: 21 years

Community Activities:

-RSF Governing Documents & Review Committee (2017 to present)

-RSF Recreation and Trail Committee (2012 to present)

-Rancho Osuna Committee (2012 – 2017)

-Director Rancho Riding Club (1998 – 2003 & 2010 – 2013)

-Tennis Club Member

-Garden Club Member

-Golf Club Member (past)

Education: Born and educated Montreal, Canada. Attended McGill University, graduated, with honors as a double major in bio-chemistry and philosophy and received a full academic scholarship to attend law school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Worked for the United States District Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, worked as a litigator with a national law firm headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. Moved to California to work with a national law firm’s practice group specializing in environmental litigation.

Why are you running for a seat on the RSF Association board?

In 1928 the protective Covenant was formed by property owners wise enough to recognize the attraction of Rancho Santa Fe because of the rare qualities of its landscape and architecture. Those same wise property owners were desirous of preserving, continuing and maintaining our unique community. Along with many before me, who have given their time to serve this community, I want to continue this legacy. Rural communities like ours are under siege from the spread of development and overcrowding from our neighboring more urban areas.

What do you think are the biggest issues facing the RSF Association/Covenant?

Community: Our downtown area has eroded from a quaint village with retail establishments to an area filled with empty storefronts, banks and real estate offices. Declining downtowns, incompatible development in historic areas, loss of natural areas and open space all result in loss of community character. We must revitalize our community.

Rising Water Costs: Our water costs continue to rise due to increasing cost of water purchased from the San Diego Water Authority; a fluctuating supply of local water; declining demand from customers and increasing costs of the CalPERS pension plan. We have very limited ability to change any of these factors and instead should explore conservation and use reclaimed or desalinated water.

Undergrounding Utilities: Due to the work of some tireless volunteers we are now going to have high-fiber cable - fantastic. However, we appear to have dropped the ball on utility undergrounding. Undergrounding our utilities has been investigated over the last decade and some of the meritorious past proposals should be re-examined.

How do you think your experience can help address some of these issues and others that come before the RSF Association board?

With over 20 years of service to this community I have been active in managing, budgeting, consensus building and making necessary decisions as a member of committees charged with the care of some of our unique community assets. Through committee activities like obtaining National Historic Designation for Osuna Ranch, drafting legal documents protecting the operation of our horse facility, extending our beautiful trail system, or advising on our governing documents and legal matters I have intimate knowledge of what matters to us as a community and how to get things done.

As a longtime attorney in the complex and unsettled area of environmental law, I travelled throughout the country learning about the causes and effects of toxic waste and it’s cleanup. My ability to listen, to contemplate problems from all perspectives and to reach favorable resolution will be invaluable as a Director of Rancho Santa Fe.

Fred Wasserman
Fred Wasserman Courtesy


Occupation: Retired

Years Living in RSF Covenant: Seven

Community Activities: Currently President of the RSF Association and a member of the Governance Committee of the Association; past member of the Finance Committee of the Association; past Co-President of the RSF Garden Club; past member of the Board of the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology; and past member of the Board of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

Education: DrPH, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health; MBA, USC; and BS UCLA

1) Why are you running for a seat on the RSF Association Board?

I am asking the members of the Association to re-elect me to the board to finish the work that the current board has begun and to move ahead with other projects and initiatives that the board has under consideration to benefit the community.

- Complete the Fiber-Optic Network to make available 1 gigabit internet service for all homes and businesses in the Covenant.

-Work with the Association staff and CDRC to revise, amend and restate the Regulatory Code.

-Reforestation of the Covenant.

-Develop a “Branding” for the Covenant (an image for the community).

-Develop a strategy to address issues related to power and other utility poles.

-Encourage inclusiveness in decisions affecting the members.

-Develop and adopt a Five-Year Plan.

- Develop Association staff.

What do you think are the biggest issues facing the RSF Association/Covenant?

The Association’s membership is rapidly changing as the result of many new families joining our community. Twenty-seven new houses have been approved to be built in the Covenant. New commercial developments have been approved. A step-down housing project is under consideration. We need to improve the infra-structure of the community including installing the fiber-optic network, improving Covenant roads and supporting projects that add to the ambiance of the Covenant. Our community must be inclusive. We need to encourage participation in the governance of the Association.

How do you think your experience can help address some of these issues and others that come before the RSF Association board?

My experience includes being a board member of public, private and non-profit corporations. Many of the issues facing our community I have had an opportunity to deal with in the past. During my three years on the board, I have worked on the Governance Committee to update the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws as well the Covenant Regulations. I provided leadership to the Association staff, shepherded the fiber-optics project and helped re-establish our relationship with the County of San Diego.