Candidate Balik cites business and environmental experience
by Dan Blackburn
It was time to “give back” to his community, Randy Balik said. So he became one of five candidates for an open seat on Hermosa Beach’s city council.
Now, just weeks before the May 11, mail-in election, the long-time city resident and environmental scientist is taking some heat — unwarranted and misunderstood, he asserts — for one of his professional associations.
Balik said this week that he has been “hearing an increasing number of people say that I come from ‘big oil’ and am ‘anti-environment.’ This could not be further from the truth. My entire career is the proof.”
The ruckus has roiled what had been an essentially amicable joust between the candidates competing for former council member Hany Fangary’s seat, from which he suddenly resigned Christmas Eve 2020.
Balik’s objective, he told ER this week, is contributing to his community.
“My family was devoted to charitable giving,” he said, “and I grew up knowing that giving back to one’s community is the right thing to do.” It’s that foundation, he added, that encouraged him into his first civic service foray.
Balik said he had been discussing a possible council candidacy with friends and associates when Fangary’s departure “caused the timeline to speed up.” As a result, he added, “I have support from people on both sides of the political aisle, because they perceive me as a true moderate who can see both sides of an issue, and make logical decisions.”
He said he worries about growing partisanship in local government: “There was a time we didn’t know the political affiliation of council members… didn’t care. There should be no partisanship when it comes to maintaining the quality of life here.”
The University of Pennsylvania graduate visited Hermosa Beach during his undergraduate years and “fell in love” with the little beachside community.
He’s now lived in the city for more than 30 years, “so I know the issues. That, combined with my varied and highly relevant professional background, is unique.”
While he expressed confidence in current council members, Balik noted: “What the council has lacked is someone with a business background who understands financial reports and budgeting, managing employees, forecasting, things like that. And it’s not just business experience that I bring to the table, it’s what I have done professionally that is particularly relevant to what this city needs.”
The “big oil” assertions that Balik has been fielding of late are attributable, he believes, to “the fact that I was a long-time chairman and forever Chairman Emeritus of WSPA Associates, the largest trade organization servicing the oil industry in the western United States.”
In a post earlier this week on the Hermosa Beach Community Forum Facebook page, Balik sought to clarify his work: “I serve the oil and gas industry on the environmental side,” he wrote. “I clean up the environmental messes left behind and demolish and remediate former facilities to make way for clean development. I’m on the green side of the industry.”
Balik, 47, is executive vice president and partner at OFRS, Inc., specializing in the remediation and reclamation of contaminated properties, with a focus on oil, gas, and petrochemical facilities. The company also remediates homeless encampments and has a public/private partnership labor program for homeless people and people at risk of homelessness, specializing in demolition, remediation, and environmental services. He’s co-founder of GreenFire Energy, which, he said, develops and deploys innovative, closed-loop technology to unlock the world’s largest source of continuous renewable energy.
In an interview with ER, Balik said, “I’m not an environmental activist, but I am an environmental steward. That’s a business person who looks at environmental issues on a practical level. I’m an environmental scientist by training — my business is cleaning up the planet” (a reference to a plethora of environmental remediations with which he’s been involved).
Balik said about his candidacy: “This process has been incredibly humbling. I have thick skin, but it might have to get thicker as I see these things pop up,” noting current criticism.
He envisions an eventual beachside business community like those in some European cities, with “wonderful restaurants” that would attract visitors.
“We certainly want to retain this charm we all love, this culture that is Hermosa Beach, but at the same time, we would be naive to think that we can remain stagnant. We have to find the balance between keeping Hermosa Beach how it’s always felt, while building something here that gives us a path to future success.
“That’s a hard task, but I think I’m uniquely qualified to help us get there.” ER
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