LAKE FOREST, CA — The 2020 election is heating up in Orange County, and there are plenty of races with candidates eager to serve in elected office. Eyes are primarily focused on the presidential election, but voters will also decide the outcome of state representative and senate seats.
Closer to home, Patch has asked candidates for city council races to discuss their campaigns, publishing candidate profiles as election day draws near.
Running for Lake Forest City Council, District 1: Chris McDonald
Age (as of Election Day)
Town/City of Residence
Lake Forest/Portola Hills
Where appropriate, add specifics about office sought: i.e., State Senate District 1, State Assembly District 2, Temecula City Council District 1, etc.
Lake Forest City Council, District 1
Party affiliation (not needed in non-partisan races, including county, city and school offices)
Wife, Kaye McDonald
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
Bachelor's degree and master's degree in mathematics, and a doctoral degree in organizational leadership
College professor and administrator with over 20 years' experience
The single most pressing issue facing our (state, district, community, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
The economic impact of COVID-related business closures is a serious threat to the City of Lake Forest, as it is across the state. Our local businesses need the full and continued support of the community. I will advocate for our existing small business owners, offer city assistance with COVID-19 relief grants, and cultivate an environment that attracts new business partners, so we don’t just recover – we thrive.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
There is nobody like me in this race, because we all have different stories. I grew up poor and spent time in some rough neighborhoods, so it is through grit, determination, mentorship, a passion for learning, and the ability to get along with others that I achieved so much so quickly. I am a professional who is serious and focused with a deep desire to give back to the community that has given so much to me. I have a track record in executive leadership of making tough, fiscally responsible, and ethical decisions, while bringing the team along, by staying cool when others get heated and defensive. I am committed to transparency and I am focused on local issues and the needs of residents above political alliances.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)
The current office holder is not seeking reelection.
While I may have voted differently from him on some matters, our incumbent served us respectably. My style will be more assertive with outreach and the solicitation of feedback from the community.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform
(1) Public safety - Maintain the warmth, safety, and livability of the city.
(2) Education - Collaborate and build relationships with school district leaders to facilitate conversations around school zone redistricting and the possibility of building a new middle school. Support early childhood education programs and funding for preschool, afterschool, and summer programs.
(3) Community representation – Represent the voice of the community on the council. Be accessible to the community for open and transparent dialogue.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
Public higher education has been an outstanding training ground for this job. Throughout my 20-year career, I’ve worked with all levels of government and the private sector to secure resources for the benefit of local individuals and families. I’ve overseen massive construction projects, restructured organizations, and written policy that improved the success of tens of thousands of students. I won’t have a novice’s panic reaction when I run into bureaucratic challenges or apparent dead ends. My experience will guide me through the tricky parts of this job – and will allow me to make the most of opportunities that will benefit the whole Lake Forest community.
If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?
We must recover economically from COVID-19 and get back to the way of life we treasure here in Lake Forest. One of my primary goals is to increase the share of dollars that those who live in the City ultimately spend in the City. Specifically, I want to see no empty or vacant storefronts and I want to maintain the safety, security, and livability of this community. To do that we will also need a balanced city budget without unfunded liabilities, and we must begin discussions with the K-12 district to look at the feasibility of redistricting school zones and the possibility of building a new middle school. Thriving businesses and strong educational partnerships will increase the desirability of our already desirable city and boost our local economy.
Why should voters trust you?
I’ve been trusted with the management of millions of dollars in public funds in my tenure as a college administrator, and those funds have never been wasted or abused on my watch. Though it may have caused some initial shock when I launched a campaign to improve efficiency and specific productivity measures at the college back in 2016, I’m proud to now be known for my career-long commitment to improve institutional effectiveness, and detailed and transparent budget management. One of the reasons I have been able to effect change successfully is my communication style. I don’t do things in the dark – I give clear explanations for why I make decisions to get buy-in from the campus community. I’ll bring that reputation for transparency and tireless budget scrutiny to this new role, as well.
What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the use of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?
The City of Lake Forest has a long tradition of responsible fiscal practices and does not have debt or unfunded obligations, which I applaud. Based on the share of operating budget expenditures, the City has established appropriate priorities, specifically: public safety, public works, community development, and community services. In general, the City has done better than most in service of the community and I am committed to making incremental improvements.
Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?
The best advice ever shared with me was ...
These words that I live by are from my mentor Nick:
“If you want to make it in life, do the things that you know you are supposed to do, and don’t do the things that you know you are not supposed to do.”
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I believe we need leaders who have perspectives grounded in the realities faced by small businesses, working parents, and the community at large.
In conversations with members of our community, I have been asked to help with a wide range of issues, including parking, crime, traffic and light synchronization, resource conservation, economic instability, and the implications of growth and affordable housing. I feel a call to action to address these and other complex issues.
We are humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response to our campaign and are grateful for the endorsement and support of the Orange County firefighters and sheriff deputies who work tirelessly to keep our community safe. Together, we can solve problems by fostering a culture of collaboration and mutual respect with fairness and openness to hearing the concerns of all members of the community.
Do you have a question to ask your candidate? Do so in comments! or email your Patch Editor.