Jeff von Waldburg, a business owner and 22-year resident, is running in the upcoming Nov. 8 election to fill one of the open seats from terming out Laguna Niguel city councilors. His opponents are Melissa Caldwell, Ray Gennawey, Javad Mokhbery, Stephanie Oddo, and Stephanie Winstead.
He said he was close to moving out of state amid frustrations from the pandemic’s effect on his hometown but has now doubled down and wants to help lead the city.
“It felt like there was an opportunity for me to make an impact,” von Waldburg told The Epoch Times.
He graduated from Princeton with a Philosophy major and is now the CEO of a software company, which helps aid veterans in applying for governmental assistance.
Temporary homeschooling was one solution he said he sought for his two daughters, as their school started enforcing mandatory masking and social distancing in response to COVID-19.
“I don’t like the government telling me what to do with my body and my kids,” he said.
Instead of moving away, von Waldburg said he’s decided to step up to the plate in an effort to try and protect the community he has come to love over the years.
As the leader of his own software company, as well as spending many years coaching high school sports in the early 2000s, von Waldburg said he has the experience needed to be a voice for residents in the city of roughly 65,000 people and will push back against policies that would negatively impact it.
Through his company, his software has been utilized by the Department of Veterans Affairs to bring around $7 billion into the pockets of veterans over the last couple of decades, he said.
“As someone who’s set a vision for an organization, set goals and then managed people to go achieve those goals,” von Waldburg said he’s proven through his life he has the experience to be a voice for residents of the city.
Public safety is one issue von Waldburg seeks to address in the city, if elected.
As a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu himself, which is a combat technique used to subdue opponents with as little damage as possible, he said he’d like the city to provide free combat classes to officers. Doing so, he said, may help reduce officers’ use of harmful weapons as a last resort.
Besides free combat training classes, von Waldburg also supports providing police with upgraded necessary tools.
“We need to give our police officers the latest and greatest equipment … we need to fund them,” he said.
Fiscal responsibility for the city is another issue on von Waldburg’s mind. He said more funding should be put into the reserves each year and the city should focus on making sure to pay its unfunded pension liabilities.
“Whether we have reserves, we pay it off in a chunk or we come up with a plan over the next few years, I think it’s important the city takes care of its debts,” he said.
Development in the city is another concern, he said. He indicated the location of a federal building in Laguna Niguel that he said is currently mostly empty, with tree roots and overgrowth slowly engulfing the empty parking lot could be used for commercial purposes.
He said the city should focus on providing more eating and shopping centers to attract new residents which would, in turn, create more city revenue.
“It’s an opportunity for us to create a heart of our city,” he said. “Right now, when I go out to dinner, I go to Dana Point, Laguna Beach, or San Juan. We need to bring people into our city.”
Improving the quality of life for seniors is also important, he said. During the pandemic, many of the elderly were isolated.
The city should provide more services to assist elderly residents, such as offering safe activities or grocery delivery, von Waldburg said.
“We have a lot of outdoor space,” he said. “We have the YMCA with a pool and a gym … we need to promote [those places] to them.”
Campaign finance disclosure documents show he has raised about $16,000 from Jan. 1, 2021, through the end of June 2022, and has made a $50,500 personal loan to his campaign.