April 2012 home page

Rathsam to the Rescue
Sherryl L. Parks | Kalamath Drive


Mark Rathsam. Photo Sherryl L. Parks

We like to help our residents meet our City employees. This month we interviewed Mark Rathsam, Deputy Director of Community Services. Mark has worked for the City for nineteen years and when asked about working for us he said, …”I love my job and look forward to at least 19 more years!”

SP: Mark, where were you raised? Did your early childhood impact your choice of career?
I grew up in Hidden Hills, a small community just north of L.A. It was a great place to grow up. We had horses, chickens, dogs and cats but we also had a great pool. I spent a lot of time in the pool and out on a large ranch that backed to our property. This is where I learned to love the outdoors and nature. Since we lived about 15 minutes from Malibu I would go fishing and surfing. While in college, I started lifeguarding in Malibu. A good friend, who lived in Del Mar, encouraged me to try out for the Del Mar Lifeguards and I was hired in 1993.


Mark Rathsam 2nd from right. 2008. Photo Virginia Lawrence. Courtesy Friends of the Powerhouse


SP: Do you have a college degree? What was your major?
I have a degree in Recreation Administration and I also got a minor in Fine Art. I have an opportunity to help teach art at my boys’ schools and I really enjoy that.

SP: So you are married and have two sons. Tell us more.
I am married to my wife Shelley, and am very lucky to have been with her for over 13 years. We have two awesome boys (9 and 6 years old) who are so much fun. They both started surfing with me when they were young and now love the beach, water, and surfing.

A story about Shelly and me begins on a day that I was involved with the best rescue of my life. A hot air balloon landed a mile off the beach in Del Mar loaded with 11 tourists. It was a cold February night. The sun had just gone down and the water temperature was 55 degrees and dropping. This was very serious, but the funny part was that I had just met my wife-to-be a few days before and that night was going to be our first date! She got to my house on 23rd Street and I was not there because I was at the rescue. I ended up being really late for the date but it all worked out once she saw me on the news rescuing 11 people.

SP: What are the most difficult tasks you encounter on the beach?
When we have lost a child on the beach it’s always difficult dealing with the distraught parents. I did not really understand what they go through until I had my own kids.

We get quite a few unusual calls or rescues. We were called to respond from the boat at 10th Street where a bicyclist accidentally rode off that steep cliff. She was lying face down on the beach and her bike was 50 feet away from her. She was about 25 years old, living in the Midwest where bike paths are flat. She didn’t expect the cliff to drop so dramatically. I was surprised to find that she was alert and alive with only a few broken ribs and bruises. It was definitely not the typical boat rescue call.

SP: Thanks Mark for being one of many Good Guys on our City’s staff. Perhaps you will keep a journal of your most exciting rescues and we will print these stories for our readers in future issues.


In 2003 the Friends of the Powerhouse donated a surf rescue boat to the Del Mar Lifeguard Department.
Photo Courtesy Friends of the Powerhouse


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