Former Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors Director Stanley Wisniewski was found dead in San Luis Obispo County on Friday, October 16th. He was 59.
Wisniewski was last seen having dinner with his son at a restaurant near Paso Robles before driving home on Thursday night, October 15th, said David Sommers, press deputy for county Supervisor Don Knabe.
According to television news station KSBY in Santa Barbara, a California Department of Transportation crew traveling on State Route 41 on October 16th noticed a car at the bottom of an embankment. Accident investigators believe that the car had been at that location for at least 24 hours, and the body inside the vehicle was later identified as Wisniewski.
Wisniewski retired from Beaches in Harbors after 28 years in 2008 and was succeeded by Santos Kreimann.
While attending the University of Southern California, he began his career as a county employee as a parking lot attendant for what was then called the Department of Beaches. Wisniewski later rose through the ranks to assume several management positions in county government.
He became the director of Beaches and Harbors in 1993. During his tenure, the asset management strategy and the county lease extension policy were developed and implemented.
“These were the guidelines for lease negotiations in Marina del Rey, which were very critical for us,” said Kerry Silverstrom, Wisniewski’s chief deputy.
Silverstrom said that days after her boss’ death, she and other county employees were still in shock.
“It’s really devastating,” she said.
David Levine, the president of the Marina del Rey Lessees Association, remembered the former Beaches and Harbors director as a committed public servant.
“We were greatly saddened to hear the tragic news,” Levine told The Argonaut. “Stan dedicated his professional life to the Marina.
“While we did not always agree on everything, we never for a moment doubted his commitment to Marina del Rey.”
In an interview with The Argonaut in 2007, Wisniewski discussed the difficulty that he and his staff had in navigating a balance between creating and maintaining recreational opportunities for residents and allowing the Marina’s lessees to maximize their business interests, and said he often found himself being criticized by both camps.
“The key thing when you’re managing any government agency and when you’re pulled in so many different directions is to have some sort of guiding document that you can adhere to and say, ‘I am administering something that the elected officials have approved,’” Wisniewski said during the interview in his second floor office in Marina del Rey.
During the interview, he also addressed complaints from residents and groups that have called for reducing or halting development in Marina del Rey who have long called for a master plan instead of the plan that the county has implemented since 1997.
Wisniewski saw the asset management strategy as “a business strategy on how to jumpstart development in Marina del Rey that in many cases is compliant with the Local Coastal Plan,” the former director explained. “It is not about what development goes here or there. That is what the LCP does.”
At the October 20th meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Third District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes a portion of coastline in Marina del Rey, offered his thoughts on Wisniewski and his tenure with the county.
“Stan was good man, an honest man with great personal and professional integrity that my office enjoyed working with over the years on beach matters,” Yaroslavsky told the board. “And this is a really ridiculous outcome to his life.
“He just retired. It is a tragedy that is inexplicable.”
The meeting was adjourned in Wisniewski’s name.
Silverstrom, who worked with Wisniewski for approximately 15 years, mentioned a personal recollection of serving with her former boss.
“What I found amazing about Stan was his ability to learn and grow,” she said. “He’ll definitely be missed.”
Wisniewski is survived by his son Weston and his daughter Dana.
The cause of death has not been determined, and it is not yet known if Wisniewski died of injuries sustained in the accident. An autopsy was still pending as The Argonaut went to press.
A service in Paso Robles, where Wisniewski resided, will be held at a later date. A memorial service will also be held in Los Angeles, according to Silverstrom.