Landsiedel Exits for Private Life

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William Landsiedel, who served as president of the Laguna Beach school board during the last year, with newly elected board member Peggy Wolff. Photo by Marilynn Young
William Landsiedel, who served as president of the Laguna Beach school board during the last year, with newly elected board member Peggy Wolff.
Photo by Marilynn Young

While William Landsiedel relinquished his seat on the five-member Laguna Beach school board this month by not seeking re-election, he isn’t yet done with school board meetings. He intends to tune in and watch the live video feed Tuesday, Dec. 13, during the annual organizational meeting when board members vie for positions on the technology, facilities, and curriculum committees.

He expects an amusing spectacle as board members individually scramble to fill the seats. It’s also the date his newly elected successor, Peggy Wolff, begins her term of office.

Landsiedel, 66, served eight years as a trustee of the four-school district that enrolls 3,000 students. “It’s time to move on,” he said in a recent interview.

Landsiedel’s tenure for the elected post began in an unusual way. He applied to fill a temporary appointed position on the board, responding to an ad posting in a local newspaper. “It was almost on a lark,” said Landsiedel, an attorney with a private practice, who previously taught law and was assistant chief counsel to a workers’ compensation insurer.

He was selected in 2006 to replace Kay Turner, who died while in office. Landsiedel promised to not seek election after the six-month term ended in 2006.

In 2008, he first ran for the seat outright and was sworn into office along with Jan Vickers. In 2012, his candidacy was contested, but Landsiedel won re-election for a second four-year term.

“He is a man of his word,” said former school board member Theresa O’Hare, who served with Landsiedel. “I have nothing but praise for him.”

Her respect for him increased measurably in the wake of a 2012 controversy where Landsiedel’s son took a position in opposition to his father.

At the time, the school board took a stand in support of a City Council measure, enactment of a local social host ordinance that penalizes adults for “knowingly” allowing minors to drink at parties in their homes.

Landsiedel’s son, Andrew, a student at Laguna Beach High at the time, eloquently conveyed his own position opposing the ordinance before the school board, recalled O’Hare, impressed with how Landsiedel “showed me that his kids made decisions on their own.”

Landsiedel was one of the only board members who worked full time while servicing on the board, yet he always returned phone calls and cast votes with students in mind, O’Hare said, “which was what mattered.”

Looking back, Landsiedel said he regretted the school board weighing in on issues that were not solely school related. Issues such as the social host ordinance could “blow up,” he said, generating criticism that made it tough to sleep. “When you’re sincere about really doing the right thing, the good outweighs the bad,” he said, adding, “but I don’t want to be exposed to it.”

Board member Dee Perry echoed his resolve to put students first. “He has been terrific to work with,” she said in a statement. “Bill has been generous with his time giving me guidance and answering my questions. I will miss his sense of humor at the meetings and his strong resolve to always put students first.”

At his final board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15, and in recognition of his service, board member Ketta Brown praised Landsiedel for his involvement.

“We don’t always agree. Sometimes I do want to choke you and vise versa, I’m sure,” she said. “But the reality is I do believe in my heart and soul that you always keep the kids first.”

Instead of a send-off bouquet, she handed him a ceramic bowl filled with cactus flowers. “I give you the highest grade and with that you get a man-plant,” she said to applause.

Asked about his best experience as a board member, Landsiedel was unequivocal. Seeing students progress through to their high school graduation, “is the very best day,” he said.

Now, that his two children have graduated, Landsiedel plans to continue his law practice in Laguna Hills and play more guitar and piano. “It’s time for new ideas and fresh attitudes. I’ve never seen the schools in better shape.”

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