By Steve Marcotte
Oceanside CA— After the City of Oceanside moved to District elections in 2018, whereby candidates are required to live in their district, council-member Esther Sanchez’s election to fill the District 1 seat left a vacancy on the City Council for District 3. That seat was formerly an at-large seat occupied by Sanchez. In December of that year, City Council directed staff to begin the process of taking applications for the vacant seat. More than 30 people applied but only one name, Ryan Keim, appeared on each of the short lists of names submitted by the council-members, after interviewing candidates. In January, Keim was appointed to the seat with a term that expires in 2020. Since there wasn’t a campaign where people could get to know Oceanside’s newest council-member, I sat down with Mr. Keim to learn a little more about him.
Mr. Keim was born in Orange County, and his family moved to Oceanside when he was two-years-old. His father was a firefighter in Orange County; however, Oceanside was more affordable, so they moved here when Ryan was very young. He grew up in the east part of Oceanside, Rancho del Oro, and graduated from Vista High School. Ryan is married to Ivy Keim who also grew up locally and graduated from Rancho Buena Vista High School (RBV). Mrs. Keim is an occupational therapist working with children with special needs in the school district. “I have learned a lot from her. She is extremely dedicated to her work. I got very lucky,” said Mr. Keim. The couple have a young daughter.
After high school, Mr. Keim attended Cal State San Marcos. “I love to surf so I stayed in the area. I didn’t want to leave because when you grow up here, you understand how good you have it and it’s tough to go somewhere that you can’t be active year-round.” Keim earned his degree at CSUSM in Political Science. “I was interested in a lot of the topics in Political Science. It was right at the time of the Iraq War and it seemed like a good way to stay informed. I didn’t expect to get into politics at the time. I was slightly interested, but I wanted to go to law school,” explained Keim.
Keim was appointed to the Oceanside Police and Fire Commission in 2004-05. “I really enjoyed it. I learned more about the Oceanside Police Department (OPD) and what they had to offer, plus I could stay in Oceanside. The pay was great; retirement was great, so there were a lot of incentives for me to apply at OPD.”
There was another reason working at OPD appealed to Keim. “I went to church and grew up with Dan Bessant. We went to summer camps together, and his family is just the nicest family. The only Ride Along I did was with Dan. I was hired in January 2006, graduated the academy, and about six months later is when Dan was shot and killed.”
On December 20, 2006, Officer Dan Bessant, 25, was shot after he responded to assist another officer on a traffic stop. An officer had requested back up during a traffic stop near the 500 block of Arthur Avenue, close to Gold Drive in Oceanside. Officer Bessant responded and was shot from behind by a person who was not a part of the traffic stop. The shot struck Officer Bessant under his arm in an area not covered by his bullet-resistant vest. Officer Bessant was flown to Scripps Memorial Hospital, where he died from the injury.
“That was a big shock for everyone. Dan was one of the hardest working cops I had seen to that point. He was from Oceanside and he cared so much for this town. He was really involved. A great Neighborhood Officer and his goal was to make everything better for the people he served.”
An injury caused a premature end to Keim’s career as a police officer. “I hurt my back, had a couple of surgeries and some complications. Eventually, I was retired from the department in 2015. Luckily enough, I was hired as the department’s Public Information Officer (PIO).”
Keim served in that position with OPD and, later, with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department (SDSO). “You take everything you have learned as a police officer and because you have all of that knowledge from the job, you’re able to explain why we do what we do.” continued Keim, “That is one of the biggest challenges for law enforcement. Most of the time officers do the right thing for the right reason, but we haven’t been the best at explaining what we did and why, along with some of the split-second decisions that were made during an incident. That was the part I enjoyed most. Trying to put the reader or viewer into the shoes of the officer who works hard every day, and why they made those split-second decisions. It wasn’t easy, especially right now with climate towards police across the country. There have been several high-profile and controversial shootings that were not handled properly, as far as dealing with press inquiries and you could see the impacts of that in those communities. It takes years to build up trust and only one incident to tear it all down. Fortunately, OPD has a great relationship with the community and transparency is a big part of that.”
Due to recurring trouble with his back, Keim had to leave his position as PIO for the SDSO. “I have been very unlucky in that category. I left the Sheriff’s department to focus on getting healed. Because I like to stay active, the injury was very frustrating because it affects everything you do. I had a few more back surgeries, but now I am finally getting back on track.”
During his recovery time, the opportunity arose with the vacancy on the city council. “I was so focused on getting healthy again, this was quite unexpected. This happened so fast, but I was considering running in 2020 anyway, and this opportunity opened up,” explained Keim. ”I knew several council members and the Mayor, just from all my time with OPD. I think we had the kind of relationship where they know what kind of person I am, my personality and temperament, how I like to approach problems. Hopefully, they were just comfortable with the way I would treat constituents and citizens.”