When the decade of the 1950’s emerged those 60-plus years ago, I was a beginning reporter for the then Daily Times-Advocate and Escondido operated under a city administrator- type government. We were still a relatively quiet, little sleepy town of fewer than 10,000 population, but only a few years away from about to blossom. Felony crime was almost non- existent. It was not until the mid fifties that the city council moved to convert to a strong city manager-type system.
Who was who in town? Fred Speers and Bert McClintock were co-owners and co-publishers of the Times-Advocate, whose small offices and printing press were in a non-descript building in the 200 block of East Grand Avenue on the south side of the street.
The aging Carl M. Reed was the long-time city administrator. (I’ll bet there are few if any people today who know where or have even heard of Carl M. Reed Bridge. Named for him, it’s the bridge that spans the flood- control channel and is embedded in the roadway of North Broadway in front of the Boys and Girls Club.)
Andy Andreasen, a retired city police chief, was the mayor of the five- mamber council in the days when the mayor was appointed by his fellow council members to serve a one-year term. (The council member, as they are today, were elected to four-year terms, but all ran “at-large.”) The other council members were Lloyd Turrentine, who owned an agricultural- supply store in the 100 block of West Washington Avenue; Ben Pfusch, a telephone company employee; Horace Gilvert, who owned a gas station out on what then was West Mission Avenue (Grant) near Rock Springs Road; and Charlie Coombs, a real estate agent.
Lloyd M. Mitchell was chief of police; Karl Petersen was volunteer chief of the primarily volunteer fire department. (There were two full-time firefighters: Louis Whyte and Willie Kunkel.) Among the police officers were Lt. George Pierce, who was always in plain clothes; Sgt. Les Lund, Sgt. Dick Schleigh and Officers Sandy McLeod, Bob Vawter, Bob Dodd and Chick Woline. George Bartley was city treasurer and Guy Ashley was city clerk.
Escondido’s Dean Howell, for whose family Howell Heights is named, was the county supervisor for the sprawling Fifth District, of which Escondido was a part at the time. Ed Bulen, an Escondido dairy operator, was a member of the California State Assembly.
Rod McLeod was the Palomar Hospital administrator. (Note: McLeod Park on Iris Land is named for Rod.) A.P. Beleal was superintendent of the Escondido Union High School Distgrict, but was soon to be succeeded by Bud Quade. Delmar Gray was superintendent of the Escondido Union (elementary) School District.
When the City Council converted to a city manager form of government, the first person selected for the new position was a fellow named Garland Gray (norelation to the elementary school superintendent), who lasted only about six weeks before resigning and admitting that the job was more than he expected. The council turned to the city’s chief of police, Lloyd M. Mitchell, to become city manager and take on the task of forming a system the city had not seen before. It meant creating positions of responsibility heretofore not seen in Escondido.
In retrospect, Lloyd Mitchell was the right man at the right time. He was more than up to the task. He brought in a experienced firefighter from Riverside County named Ward Ensley to create a full-time fire department. He hired two young and energetic go-getters __ Chuck Larrick and Bob Nash __ to head engineering an dfinance departments respectively. He promoted Sgt. Les Lund to police chief. He hired a retired local deputy sheriff, B.A. “Jack” Powell as recreation director. That was the core of his new city management team.
Russ Taliaferro was the part-time city attorney. It was Larrick who was the primary “architect” of the city’s flood-control channel. Powell started the first
Little League program in town. In the police department, Dick Schleigh was promoted to captain. Among the first full-time firefighters were Louis Whyte (who later succeeded Ward Ensley as chief), Jim Galt, Jim Thompson, Ardis Wade and Clark Jamison. Dorothy Dye was secretary at City Hall and clerk to the Planning Commission.
In retrospect, I also felt the same about Bud Quade. He was the right man at the right time for the job of Escondido Union High School District superintendent. He had been an Esocndido High School classroom instructor who was well-regarded by his colleagues. He guided the district through the negotiations of three areas breaking off to form their own unified school districts; and guided a growing district through the construction of two more traditional high schools.
When I think about it all these years later, I realize that Lloyd Mitchell set the example for future city managers. He surrounded himself with qualified people and then delegated authority — as any good manager does. He led the city through its first burst of annexations, population increases and construction projects. He was Mr. City Hall.
Things we may not know about people, but find them to be fascinating: Bill Montgomery, who was an Escondido elementary school district trustee in the fifties, was a survivor of a Japanese prisoner of war camp during World War II. Jack Port, owner of Port’s Men’s Store downtown and who had served a term on the San Diego County Board of Education, was a survivor of the 1944 D-Day invasion of Europe.
Ron Kenney, a 60-year resident of Escondido, was a reporter and editor of the former Daily Times-Advocate from 1952 to 1979 and a copy editor on the editorial pages of the San Diego Union-Tribune from 1985 to 1997.