Sunday, May 4, 2014

Life's Little Transitions

Restoring the 1929 North Park Theatre
I have had some comments from readers of this blog as to why I have not posted anything in a while.  I sincerely appreciate the support and interest my blog has earned for several years.  My desire in posting has always been to transmit my life's experiences and passion for my work to others.

I would like to explain what has been happening in my life for the past several months.

I have been involved in two full time activities during my career.  In fact, I have led two completely separate lives.  Of course, for the past 45 years I have worked every day as a furniture conservator and that is still my life.  I will continue to do my job as long as I can hold a tool.

On the other hand, for the past 30 years I have been active in another position, sitting on non profit management corporations working to restore economic activity to historic inner city commercial business districts.

Instead of being involved in some recreational sport, like golfing, sailing, biking, or swimming, my time outside the shop is spent in a business suit, sitting in meetings, negotiating with developers, activists, city staff and politicians to make things happen.  In most of these groups, I am recognized as a leader and usually sit as President of the board.  I have a talent for finding consensus among those who basically disagree.

One tactic I have found works in these situations is to closely watch the faces and body language of the board members during the meeting.  It is essential that those who are against what ever action is recommended be allowed to fully express their position, without interruption.  One of the most difficult things I find is to wait patiently as they rant and rave about how bad the idea is, and not say anything.  All the time I am watching others react to the argument and counting votes.  When they start to repeat their points, I can then stop them and ask for others to speak.

After all the negative energy is used up, it is time to work on a positive motion that will move the agenda forward.  Since all the negative points have been made, they have nothing left to add when I begin to form the motion to solve the problem.

Then the tricky part happens.  I have identified a board member who will make the proper motion in advance and I quickly add the second.  Since I hold the second, any amendments that will naturally be offered by the other side are subject to my approval.  In fact, by making the second, I hold the veto.

I always get my way.  I find it exciting and rewarding to be able to control the situation.  This is a strange personality trait I have, since I am basically not a social animal and do not feel comfortable in social situations in general.  But in a position of control as a leader of a group, I am quite happy.

30 years ago I walked the neighborhood of North Park, where my business is located.  It was an older historic district and had been abandoned by most of the retail businesses, since a major shopping center was built a few miles away in Mission Valley.  I was able to get the city to approve a Business Improvement District in North Park in 1984, and for most of the past 30 years I have served as President.

Today, North Park has diverse retail, numerous upscale restaurants and micro breweries.  Forbes named it the 13th "hippest" neighborhood in the country.  It has also been named by a men's magazine as the number 1 craft beer district.  It has become my dream district and I am fortunate to live here.

For many years we had an active North Park Redevelopment Project Area Committee that I was elected to as a business and property owner.  While sitting on that board, we were able to invest tax deferred funds to build a 4 story parking structure, restore the 1929 historic theatre, set aside 20% for low mod housing, support development and other infrastructure improvements which rebuilt the district.

I was appointed to the Small Business Advisory Board by the mayor and actively represented small business interests.  I served on the North Park Historic Board, which is active in saving the residential and commercial buildings that survive from the first quarter of the 20th century.

I was elected and served for years as the President of the San Diego Business Improvement District Council, a group unique in the country, representing 17 BIDs in the city of San Diego.  In that capacity, I was invited to speak in Los Angeles, Dallas and Philadelphia on the successes of assessment districts in restoring economic vitality to older districts.

In all these activities over the past decades, I have made friends and developed relationships with a large group of individuals, none of which were aware of my actual business.  When I was in meetings, standing around in a suit, and another member would ask for my card, I would hand them the card of my CEO, a paid staff person who would handle their questions.  I never used my position to promote my business, since it was very unlikely that the person was involved in pre industrial antiques.

So, when I turned 65 last year, I made a decision to retire.  However, I do not expect to retire from my job.  I decided to retire from my volunteer work, and over the past year stepped down from each board as my election cycle happened.  The last two board meetings I had were in March, two months ago.  I had a nice retirement party, where the mayor was kind enough to praise my efforts, the representative from Sacramento presented me with a proclamation and the business members roasted me.  It was fairly emotional, as I look back at the success and realize that one person can make a difference.

So, this is why I have been quiet for several months.  I am in a period of transition in life.  My job continues, and I have very interesting work to do, and I will begin blogging again soon about that.

But the other side of my life is over, and I now find myself looking for ways to spend that "outside time".

I think I will take up swimming and biking.  I need to loose some weight.