Paul Watkins thought he was stepping into a meeting, but when he ambled into the dining room of the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, he was greeted by a sea of familiar faces and a round of applause.
“Congratulations Paul, you’re the 2015 Newport Beach Citizen of the Year,” said Steve Rosansky, president of the Chamber of Commerce, who guided Watkins into the celebration.
Watkins was caught off guard and genuinely surprised, but everyone in attendance agreed he was the perfect choice.
“He has been a longtime servant of the city and been involved in a lot of different groups and organizations,” noted Rosansky. “He’s worked on city committees, he’s a Chamber member and former chair of the Chamber board, he’s very committed to Newport Beach. He’s always willing to give his time and volunteer. He epitomizes all the qualities that we look for in the citizen of the year.”
“He’s an outstanding choice,” agreed Mayor Ed Selich. “Paul has done a lot for our city.”
“He’s been a presence in the city, particularly representing the West Newport area to make sure the civic matters
are handled fairly,” said former Mayor Don Webb. “He supports all of the good things in our community.”
As noted on the Chamber’s website, the 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. And it’s for the one who says, ‘Newport Beach is my home – and my life – and its future and mine are the same – and whatever I can do to make them better, I will do.’”
Paul’s wife, Ronnie, said she knew about the award two weeks ago but “didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want Paul to catch wind of it. He’s given a lot to the community, hopefully this incentivize other people that there’s a benefit to giving.”
“I was totally surprised by this award,” said Paul, a Newport-based lawyer who has lived in the city for four decades “There are so many fantastic recipients of the citizen of the year honor that I have known, so I am truly humbled that they would think of me to join that very esteemed group.”
The Citizen of the Year Award was first handed out in 1949. Among the many notable names on the list are Joseph A. Beek (1955), William “Bill” Spurgeon (1958), Carroll Beek (1961), Judge Robert Gardner (1968), George Hoag (1974), William D. Lusk (1984), Art Gronsky (1992), Marian Bergeson (1998), Seymour Beek (2005), Evelyn Hart (2007), Ralph Rodheim (2010), Tom Johnson (2011), Jean Watt (2013), and Jack and Nancy Skinner (2014).