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Quarantine Q + A — Andrea Marr

How This Inspiring Civic Leader and Former Naval Officer is Navigating Life in the Time of COVID

I had the good fortune of speaking on a panel with Costa Mesa City Council Member Andrea Marr before she was elected in 2018. When the panel moderator read her credentials, I remember looking around to see what the heck I was doing there — talk about being in good company! In addition to admiring her remarkable leadership during this pandemic (when I’ve often wished I was living in Costa Mesa versus Newport Beach), I also am thankful for her service in the U.S. Navy, which included three deployments, including a tour in the Persian Gulf. In addition to serving on Costa Mesa’s City Council, Andrea also holds an MS in Engineering and works as a Director at Willdan Group, a publicly traded energy solutions company. And I’m only scratching the surface here. Plus, she’s just an all-around brilliant and down-to-earth person who I know I can learn a lot from. Without further ado, here’s your chance to learn more about Andrea!

Q: What about the current quarantine situation have you liked best - if you had to pick something to like?

AM: My husband and I have started running together a few times a week. I've always loved running as a stress reliever and I love that it's something we're doing together. We're also both morning people and with so little traffic out in the mornings, it has been a peaceful way to start the day.

Q: What about quarantine has been the most challenging for you and why?

AM: I don't usually sit at a desk all day every day staring at a computer. I'm a project manager in my day job and I'm often out visiting clients and job sites. I couldn't figure out why I felt so exhausted after the first two weeks of just sitting at a desk. I actually got my first migraine ever that second weekend of the stay at home order (it was terrifying - I thought I was going blind for the first hour). I realized I have to find ways to get up and move around, take calls from different parts of the house and religiously take my dog for a walk in the early afternoon. It all seems very obvious in retrospect, but it was a lesson I suppose I had to learn.

Q: Have you learned anything about yourself during this time?

AM: I spent five years in the Navy and deployed three times in those five years. When the Stay at Home order was first announced, I couldn't understand why it felt like I was suddenly on deployment. It turns out a lot of veterans have felt that way. It wasn't just that suddenly I was isolated from friends and family. It was the knowledge that for the foreseeable future, I have to mentally focus on putting one foot in front of the other without looking up and searching for an end date. And I'm actually pretty good at that! I stick to a daily schedule (mostly dictated by the dog) and I was honed in on a couple of initiatives that were all-consuming during the first weeks, including planning a food distribution and working with Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens on getting help to our small business community.

Q: Quarantine cuisine - any new or old favorites you've been enjoying more during quarantine? What and why?

AM: Our friends at Hydrant Pet Hotel in Costa Mesa started a food delivery business ( and we've been getting weekly deliveries of beautiful, fresh strawberries. I've been compelled to make strawberry ice cream and put strawberries on basically everything.

Q: What is your quarantine cocktail of choice?

AM: I’ve gone on a full, worldwide cocktail tour since this all began. From Old Fashioneds (with Irish Whiskey) to Palomas (with tequila) to sake to Italian red wine... I think some part of my brain is excited to travel again after this is all over!

Q: Are there more holistic lessons that you hope society/our culture/the world will take away from quarantine (after it's over) — things we've learned as a society during this time?

AM: My dad stumbled across an article recently about an economic theory developed by Kate Raworth, a professor at Oxford. She calls it "Doughnut Economics.” The idea is that we shouldn't be measuring society's success by our wealth; instead we should be trying to create a society in which we can maximize lifting people up while minimizing our impact on the environment. I haven't been able to stop thinking about that idea of re-prioritizing our values and how we judge “success.” This pandemic has thrown our entire societal hierarchy out of wack. Who is essential? Who gets "bailed out?” Is it ever okay to prioritize profit over health? I can't help but think that maybe this is our opportunity to look at the world a little differently and maybe even change what it is we value the most as a society.

Q: Favorite music during this time?

AM: Zac Clark (@iamzacclark)! He goes live on Instagram at least once a week and he just jams on his piano for an hour with occasional breaks to sip a Negroni. Tuning into his "shows" has been one of my favorite things about quarantine so far!

Q: Any tip/s you can share with others that have made this time more bearable for you?

AM: Find some weird analogy for this time that works for you. I'm a really visual person, so my own mental image (derived from private Zoom yoga sessions with Nayelli Cardenas at Align Bodywork and Yoga) is that I'm standing on the beach, right where the surf is breaking. And the surf represents the chaos, the pain and all the things around us that we can't control right now. But if we plant our feet firmly in the sand, it's entirely possible to let it all break over you while staying grounded. Find an image or a mental picture that works for you and come back to it when you're feeling overwhelmed.

Q: Any book, podcast, movie, YouTube, Instagram accounts, albums or any other recommendations you have during this time?

AM: The last book I rented from the Costa Mesa Library was James Clavell's Shogun. At the current rate, I'll still be reading that thing when the quarantine is lifted! When I'm not working my day job or doing City Council things or making cocktails, I've been teaching myself to use watercolor pencils by watching YouTube videos. They were a gift from my mother in law and it's fun to finally play around with them.

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