Allan Roeder's Retirement Dinner
Well, that was fun! Last night, as a guest of our friends at the Orange Coast College Foundation, I attended what Master of Ceremonies Peter Buffa jokingly referred to as the "4th Allan Roeder Farewell" event this week at the Westin Hotel and it was a blast! I don't know the exact headcount, but I'm guessing well over 250 people came to wish retiring City Manager Allan Roeder a fond farewell and a happy retirement.
MOVERS AND SHAKERS - AND MOVED AND SHAKEN, TOO
The ballroom was packed with movers and shakers - and some of the moved and shaken - from all over Orange County. Former mayor Buffa tried to name all the dignitaries - a process that took a long, long time - and still missed a few, including a couple sitting at his own table! I'm certainly not going to try to list them all, but I may mention them in context as it strikes me as I write this. As he went on and on naming the "Honorable Council Member so and so" and the Honorable City Manager so and so", I was feeling just a little unworthy - kind of like a serf in a room full of barons. Knowing many of the players and their egos, I found myself grateful for the tall ceilings in the ballroom.
FLOCKS OF OFFICIALS
There were city managers from all over the county; former Costa Mesa council members and mayors; the entire current Costa Mesa city council(except Eric Bever);current and past state legislators; columnists and other members of the media and on and on and on. Those folks who like to work a room during this kind of an event almost didn't know where to start!
FLITTING, KIND OF...
I had to chuckle, for example, as representatives from Facilities Management West and the current Fair Board flitted from table to table like slightly pudgy butterflies, looking for nectar among the influential.
As I looked around the room from my perfect vantage point near the back wall I smiled as I saw the pairings of attendees conjured up by the magic seating chart in the sky. I tried to imagine some of the table talk that was going on during dinner - a fine feed, by the way.
Since Register columnists Barbara Venezia and Frank Mickadeit both were up front and close to the action I suspect they will provide us with their own special brand of reportage on this event. I look forward to those efforts.
BUFFA WAS ON HIS GAME
There were several highlights for me last evening. Buffa, of course, really knows how to rock a room and did his usual masterful job of keeping things moving. As always, his schtick was laced with irreverent zingers about officials present and not present. He and Mayor Gary Monahan ran a little tag team routine that seemed to work. By the way, Buffa's Italian, so if you ever want to shut him up, just grab his hands.
BARK PARK RE-NAMED
Monahan presented Roeder with a special sign which signified the re-naming of the Costa Mesa Bark Park the "Roeder Ruff Park". Roeder is well known for his love of his - and all - dogs. Tears flowed at that moment.
Many members of Roeder's family were present and were introduced to the assembled throng. I'm sure there were more than a few damp eyes as Roeder bounced from the dais to go hug each and every one.
LEVITY REIGNED SUPREME
Brad Long of Costa Mesa TV prepared a terrific Powerpoint presentation with hysterically funny Photoshopped pictures of Roeder, each of which was hilariously narrated by Buffa. This photo was among the tamest of the bunch.
STEVE HAYMAN CHECKS IN, KIND OF
Former Assistant City Manager and current City Manager in Rancho Santa Margarita, Steve Hayman, was a co-conspirator in a very amusing video clip put together by Long and Dane Bora of CMTV. In it he mentioned that Roeder had trained and mentored several current city managers in Orange County and elsewhere.
COUNCIL MEMBERS REMEMBRANCES
Former mayor Mary Hornbuckle presented a summary of comments and stories provided by many of her fellow council members and mayors about Roeder, including some very amusing anecdotes about how he was hired and his management style.
THE highlight for me, though, was Roeder's speech. He stood there with no notes and poured his heart out, mixing poignant historical references with big dollops of his personal management philosophy. No person in that room could doubt that his more than three dozen years as an employee of the city was anything short of a labor of love. No, I didn't record the speech, nor did I take a single note. I just sat there like the rest of the crowd and enjoyed and appreciated the moment.
SAYING THANKS TO ALL...
At the end of the evening Roeder managed to make his way around the room, trying to connect with every person there. Of course, that's his style. He's a man who has made his mark on Costa Mesa by simply going about doing his job with integrity, dignity, professionalism and dedication. He leaves giant shoes to fill.
THANKS TO THE OCC FOUNDATON
I again want to thank my friend, Doug Bennett from the OCC Foundation for inviting me to be part of their group. I had a chance to sit and visit with Dr. Dennis R. Harkins, the President of Orange Coast College during the evening. Dr. Harkins came from Atlanta a little over a year ago and is still getting the lay of the land here. I liked what he had to say about his plans for OCC and it's future as a major part of the continuing evolution of Orange County.
END OF AN ERA
So, this was the end of the "Roeder Era" in the history of Costa Mesa. Today he will work his last day on the payroll - right up to the end, he told me. He will finally clean out his office over the weekend and make room for his successor, Chief Executive Officer of the City, Thomas Hatch, to take over on Monday.
ONE LAST TIME - THANK YOU
Once again, I thank Allan Roeder for his tireless dedication to Costa Mesa, for his professionalism and skill and for building an organization that has arguably been the finest municipal staff in the county. He has set the bar high, for which we are all grateful. Now he deserves to relax with his wife, Christie, and enjoy his retirement, wherever it takes him.