by Don Kindred
Like many of us, San Clemente City Manager George Scarborough wasn’t sure where his life was headed when he graduated from College. But a chance job as a city planner for the small town of Greenfield, CA (population 7,000) might have been a big clue. It began a journey in city government that would lead him three years later to become that community’s City Manager, and down a career path that now spans 25 years and includes City Manager stints in four cities.
Scarborough comes to us from our local neighbor to the north, San Juan Capistrano, where he had served for the last fifteen years. He survived a nation-wide search that included 63 applicants.
There were sure to be some surprises when he filled the position left by Mike Parness in June of 2002 and vacated by interim City Manager Bill Talley a few months ago. San Clemente has almost twice the population and more than double the annual budget of his former position, but according to Scarborough the biggest surprise so far has been a positive one.
“The big surprise for me,” he says, “is the quality of the City Council, City Commissions and City Staff. We are fortunate to have such excellent people. Having had some contact with the City Council when I was in San Juan gave me some insight into the quality of the City Council Members but I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the staff.”
We discussed the future of San Clemente.“San Clemente has been the best kept secret in Southern California for years, but now the secret is out ... we’re being discovered. That discovery creates challenges of congestion and threats to our quality of life, but it also creates opportunities to remove blight, expand amenities, improve our appearance and provide critical funding for the enhancement and protection of our quality of life.
Scarborough believes strongly that the key to our success is to take advantage of the great opportunities we have while retaining that essential character of San Clemente that brought us all here in the first place. A couple of projects that he finds particularly exciting are the Downtown Visioning Project and the Vista Hermosa / La Pata Master Plan.
“The Downtown Visioning creates a chance for our Community to articulate what the future will be, not only for the Del Mar area but also North Beach, the Pier Bowl and sections of El Camino Real. It is a chance to create a foundation for the future in a critical part of the community.
“I am also very excited about the Vista Hermosa / La Pata Master Plan, those 50 acres (of city-owned property) provide an unparalleled opportunity to both develop amenities for our residents and create an important focal point to bring together our geographically diverse community.”
But Scarborough, makes it perfectly clear that in the future we must place the environment at the top of the list.
“Above all,” he emphasizes, “we must protect this wonderful physical environment that is San Clemente’s greatest blessing. It not only is what makes us unique, but it is key to our social and economic future.”
(On that point the community is already in accord. In January the San Clemente voter-approved Clean Water Initiative went into effect. The $1.7 million annual budget to protect our ocean from urban runoff will be funded by an “Urban Runoff Fee” that was approved by over half the ballots returned by San Clementeans.)
George Scarborough brings us a keen insight on other regional issues as well, Council members were impressed with his knowledge of double-tracking, development, the economy, Rancho Mission Viejo and the toll road, and San Clemente provides him with what he feels is a phenomenal opportunity both personally and professionally.
“San Clemente is a unique community,” he surmises, “that has managed to maintain a small-town-village feel, despite the growth these past few years, and I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the city’s future.”