Laird Hayes Named Newport Beach Citizen of the Year for 2023

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Newport Beach Councilmember Robyn Grant, Citizen of the Year Laird Hayes, Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Rosansky / photo by Richard Simon

When a group of former Citizens of the Year got together several weeks ago at the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce to suggest a list of citizens worthy of such lofty, yet humbling, recognition, the room went almost silent in uncommunicated agreement when the name of this year’s recipient was mentioned.

But there was no silence in the room at Oasis Senior Center Tuesday afternoon, Aug.

15, only applause and cheers when it was announced that former Orange Coast College professor and coach, and community influencer, Laird Hayes had been named the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Citizen of the Year “for all the things that he has contributed over the years.”

The award recognizes that individual “who represents the qualities each of us admire and respect;” for “helping others to achieve;” “for long term commitment to the community;” for “being there when service is called for,” and “for being there when there is a job to be done.”

“Laird checks all the boxes when we choose a Citizen of the Year,” said Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Rosansky. “He is selfless in his service to the community and he is the type of person that elevates everyone he touches.”

Hayes’s lengthy resume reveals a life of family involvement first and foremost, academic successes, professional achievement and boundless community involvement.

Raised in Santa Barbara, Hayes attended Princeton University, where for four years he played catcher on their baseball team. Graduating with honors, he went on to UCLA to earn his Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Higher Education in 1976.

That same year, he joined the faculty at Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa, until his retirement in 2011. During his tenure, he enjoyed a succession of both teaching, coaching and administrative positions, including Professor of Kinesiology and Athletics, Assistant Dean, Student Affairs, and Men’s soccer and surf team coach.

Along the way, he served for two years as the Director of Community Relations at the Coast Community College District.

Since childhood, Hayes has been involved in sports. He donated countless weekends officiating at high school and college football games, ultimately becoming an NFL game official from 1995 through 2017. His officiating assignments included three Super Bowls, an AFC championship, two Pro Bowls and a number of divisional playoff games.

But it is for his selfless volunteering in the community after retirement for which Hayes received his Citizen of the Year Award.

His list of service is long: Newport Beach Parks and Recreation Commissioner; member of the General Plan Citizens Advisory Committee; member of the Newport Beach Police Department Volunteers; member of the Fire Department Community Emergency Response Team; member of the city’s Water Quality and Coastal Tidelands Committee, and other distinguished service positions.

Time permitting (and he does make time) Hayes and his wife, Maggie, enjoy global travels to exotic locales. Having recently returned from explorations in South Africa, and Botswana, his latest long-term goal is to take his grandchildren when they become old enough to experience the thrill of viewing wildlife in their native habitats.

It’s evident that Citizen of the Year Laird Hayes always achieves his goals.

According to information on the Chamber’s website, the Newport Beach Citizen of the Year award is “presented to that individual who best represents the qualities each of us admire and respect among our friends, neighbors and associates. It’s not given so much for achievement, as it is for helping others achieve. It’s not given for outstanding single effort, as much as for long-term, continuing commitment to the community. It’s not given for position, public or private, as it is for “being there” when there is service called for. It’s not given so much for being a member, or for paying dues, or for financial contribution, as it is for being the one everybody wants on the Committee when there’s a job to be done. It’s for the one who says ‘Sure – I’ll help – what do we need to do?’ And then does it.”

Hayes joins other recent Citizen of the Year honorees including Joseph Beek (2022), Walt Howald (2021), Councilmember Joe Stapleton (2020) former Mayor Nancy Gardner (2019), Debbie Snavely (2018), former City Manager Homer Bludau (2017), John and Elizabeth Stahr (2016), Paul Watkins (2015), Jack and Nancy Skinner (2014), Jean Watt (2013), Tom Johnson (2011/2012), and the late Ralph Rodheim (2010).

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