He could be working in any major Southern California hospital, with his master's in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University and bachelor's from UCLA.
Instead, Kevin Selna, 33, chose a different public health setting: the beach.
Selna, who patrols the coastline of Crystal Cove State Park, is one of about 70 lifeguards-peace officers for the state park system who watch the shores and enforce laws up and down the coast. While he carries a gun and a badge, most full-time lifeguards do not.
So when news reports revealed guards' generous pensions — one of the reasons Selna took the job — and the nearly $150,000 in salaries paid to Newport Beach supervisors, people around the world got furious. They imagined Pamela Anderson on "Baywatch," and flooded officials' phones and inboxes to demand changes.
Residents and politicians are now reevaluating career lifeguards' worth, and many towns are considering budget cuts or pension reforms. The guards — suddenly emblematic of excessive public-employee compensation — have tried to combat nagging perceptions. They say that their thorough training, sophisticated equipment and years of experience prevent thousands of people from drowning each year.