New Fairbanks Ranch manager in Rancho Santa Fe aims to keep homeowners safe and happy

For the last six months, new Fairbanks Ranch Association Manager Jerry McDonald has been working at what he says is his best job ever.

“It’s a dream come true,” McDonald said. “My vision for Fairbanks Ranch is the same vision the developers had back in the 1970s and that’s to have one of the most prestigious gated communities in Southern California.”

When the first Fairbanks Ranch homes were built in the 1980s, it was the first upscale, gated community in Southern California and served as a model for everything that came after, he said. The gates provide privacy and a sense of security for the 611 custom homes inside.

The community features five tennis courts and a clubhouse that hosts community events such as the Spring Fling and Winter Wonderland, when snow was brought in for residents. Every weekend there is coffee by the Fairbanks Ranch Lake and frequently the association also hosts concerts by the lake.

McDonald has an office with a view, looking right out onto the scenic and serene lake. The man-made lake was built in the 1920s, when the property was just citrus groves. A pump house pumped water out of the lake to water all of the trees — vintage black and white photos of the pump house at work decorate the walls of McDonald’s office.

Today the lake serves three purpose s— it irrigates all the common area landscaping which in the days of drought and water conservation is a huge benefit; it provides recreation in the form of boating and fishing; and, lastly, it provides a beautiful aesthetic value to the community, complete with swans.

“The lake is still our centerpiece,” McDonald said. “Who wouldn’t want to live around a lake?”

McDonald has only done two things in his career — served his country in the military and managed properties. He served 22 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, from the age of 18. San Diego was his last duty assignment and he fell in love with the city and decided he wanted to live here for the rest of his life.

He had always been interested in a career in property management and didn’t waste any time to get started. He retired from the Marines on a Friday and began working as a manager on Monday.

In 2005, he was attracted by the building boom in Las Vegas and went to manage a large golf course community in the desert with 1,250 homes. In 2009, he was recruited to “another desert,” managing PGA West in La Quinta for six and half years. The community included 3,000 homes and six golf courses — he managed 880 of those homes.

“I’ve always had my eye on Fairbanks Ranch,” McDonald said. “When I got into this industry I knew the then-manager and he told me what a great property it was. I just had to be patient and wait for the right opportunity and I got it last year and I felt as if I had won the jackpot.”

Similar to the way McDonald wasted no time jumping into property management, he jumped immediately into the Fairbanks Ranch job. After his last day at PGA West, he left at 1 p.m. and drove straight to San Diego to make it to the 5 p.m. board meeting.

Four hours between jobs.

“I couldn’t wait to get here. The next day I sat down at my desk,” McDonald said. “Every day I come to work, it seems like my first day. That’s the feeling I have and I hope that feeling never goes away.”

McDonald is complimentary of the great staff at Fairbanks Ranch and the “wonderful, genuinely nice” homeowners that make his job a pleasure.

His main role as manager is taking care of the property while staying within the budget and making sure everything looks nice, that the streets are in good condition, the grass is cut, the trees are trimmed and the ducks quacking.

Safety is also a high priority. Following the wind storm in late January that felled many trees around the county, McDonald took action to make sure that trees were trimmed and cleared along San Dieguito Road so they would not pose a danger to homes, residents and travelers through the area.

McDonald said in addition to maintenance and safety, perhaps his most important role as a manager is to make sure the homeowners are happy.

“Usually when my phone rings it’s when homeowners have a problem or concern,” said McDonald. “For me when the phone rings, I look at that as another opportunity to help someone or make someone happy. If it’s important to the homeowners, then it’s important to me.”

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