After eight years on the City Council, and 33 years as a city employee and department head before that, Don Webb ended his formal involvement with city government this week – Monday’s special council meeting was the lat of his term. Prevented by term limits from running for reelection, Walkin’ Don – a nickname that comes from his penchant for walking every street in the city, which he has done five times – will be succeeded at the Dec. 14 council meeting by Rush Hill.
Webb was interviewed by Newport Beach Indy Editor Roger Bloom.
1. What are you going to do now?
Jan and I plan to enjoy our lives in Newport Beach without the obligation of attending meetings in the City Council Chambers on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each and every month. When asked about issues that have come up around the community, it will be nice to be able to say, “Please call Rush Hill and he will be able solve all your problems.”
2. In your 40 years with Newport Beach, what achievements are you most proud of?
During my term as a City Council member, I have strived to listen to the issues and problems that have been brought to me and then use my knowledge of the working of the City to address those issues and problems.
In my positions as a Public Works engineer, city engineer, Public Works director, and City Council member, I have had the opportunity to work with a great group of people to provide service to Newport Beach. No one person can take credit for the completion of city achievements. There are many projects that I am proud to have been a part of the team that accomplished its completion. From a Public Works Department side, the highlight was the Arches Interchange reconstruction. A major accomplishment was ensuring that the city has a primary water supply source through the Groundwater Development Project by giving us access to the groundwater basin. Bringing art in public places to Mariners Mile along Coast Highway by building the Pelican Wall has added interest to the area.
As a City Council member, I am most proud to have been selected to be the mayor to lead the city through its Centennial year in 2006. In addition, a few of the major accomplishments completed in the last eight years include the Crean Mariners Library, the General Plan Update, Local Coastal Plan adoption, Oasis Senior Center and the design of a new City Hall.
3. Which of your goals for the city remain unrealized?
The new Civic Center needs to be completed, and I am pleased to have had a part in the design of the facility now under construction. We need more active sports fields on the west side of the bay and really need to get Sunset Ridge Park built. Marina Park is another project that is needed to give our residents access to this window to the bay.
4. What do you think of the city employees’ pension structure, and what changes, if any, would you make?
It is difficult for me to give an impartial answer to this question since I am a beneficiary to this system. The people who work for our city are dedicated and hard-working individuals who have decided to dedicate their careers to public service. They deserve to be able to retire with a reasonable income when they reach retirement age. When I retired nine years ago, that age was 62-64. Due to favorable economic times a few years back, that age has become 50–55. I believe the retirement age needs to be increased. Some refer to city employees as public servants. Yes, they serve the public, but they are not servants that should be given pensions that cause them to have to live on substantially reduced incomes.
5. Any advice for Rush Hill?
Rush has a long history of commitment and service in the city and has a lot of support from all areas. He needs to listen to his constituents and be available. Rush is an architect and sometimes architects seem to dream a little too much. My advice is to be practical and think like an engineer.
6. How many hats do you have, and which are your favorites?
I have well over 150 hats in my collection, most of which are displayed in two rooms at home. I have favorite hats for all occasions. To name a few: a straw hat for walking, a top hat for formal occasions, a boater for patriotic events, a bowler for historic times and, for semi-formal, two Austrian hats. The most unusual is an Egyptian pharaoh’s garb.
7. What is the biggest planning or public works challenge still facing the city?
I would like to say, we’ve handled all those challenges and that is why I feel comfortable in retiring at this time. This is mostly true. The completion of our Civic Center, which includes a City Hall, library expansion, a civic green and parks, is still two years away. Our designs look great, but pulling all of the details together to make it the final product that we desire is the real challenge.
8. Which is your favorite street to walk?
Ocean Boulevard in Corona del Mar provides a view of the beach and harbor entrance. We make a circle by walking down to Big Corona Beach and up over the rocks above Pirate’s Cove. Another view favorite is Vista Ridge Road. If we use two cars, we can walk downhill and drive uphill to pick the other car up without having to climb the hill.
9. What do you think is the biggest change in the city since 1968?
The hills are alive with houses to accommodate a doubling in population.
10. What is your favorite travel destination, and why?
The place we love and visit most often is the Cottage on St. Simons Island in Georgia. My grandfather built the Cottage for his children in 1950 and his great-great grandchildren are still enjoying it today. We gather there with family members from around the country to keep our family ties strong.