John Schaefer capped his last week as San Marino’s city manager dressed in Hawaiian shirts.
The tropical attire was meant to set a festive mood for his weeklong departure from the city, which included a celebration at the Rotary Club of San Marino and a farewell party at The Old Mill on Thursday, July 28.
Present at The Old Mill for Schaefer’s two-hour long celebration were a host of dignitaries, colleagues, community leaders and residents, many of whom spoke highly of the outgoing city manager.
Mayor Allan Yung recalled that he would always tell Schaefer, “Half your job is done if our city has sunshine like this, and all the sidewalks and streets are repaired, all the trees are trimmed, and all the sewage is working.”
On a similar note, former Mayor Eugene Sun joked, “John may be the best city manager out there. He could also be the [most] mediocre city manager out there.”
He clarified, “To be a city manager in San Marino, it’s pretty easy. As long as you ensure public safety, as long as the streets are clean and landscapes well kept and you answer all your emails and phone calls, you’re a good manager.”
From all the testimony heard that night, it appears Schaefer had done just that and more.
Eugene Sun presented Schaefer with a gift of a giant chocolate bar and recalled, “Since my office is close to city hall, John would come by my office and every time he left I would give him a treat.”
Councilman Steve Talt shared his memories of the outgoing city manager.
“John and I didn’t always see eye to eye on a lot of things since I’ve been on the city council; however, I must attest it was always easy working with John when you didn’t see with him eye to eye.”
Councilman Steven Huang jokingly added, “Like Steve [Talt] said, I had the same problem seeing eye to eye with John, but that’s because of height.”
Kathryn Barger, chief of staff for Supervisor Michael Antonovich and a candidate for Antonovich’s open seat in November, attested to Schaefer’s ability to partner with the county.
“If there was a problem, we could solve it before it got out of hand,” she said.
As a lifelong San Marino resident, Barger appreciated that, “[Schaefer] took the time to get to know everybody.”
School Board Member Chris Norgaard also commended Schaefer for his ability to work with other local agencies.
“In this community, you can’t achieve this status without a partnership with the city,” he said.
On behalf of Southwestern Academy, Russ Osmonson shared some thoughts from Southwestern Headmaster Ken Veronda.
“Ken always wondered why John dressed so casually,” he told the crowd. “[Veronda] wants to make sure that with your new job you have a new tie,” Osmonson said as he presented Schaefer with a Southwestern Academy tie.
Vice Mayor Richard Sun told a story of the city’s trip to a school in San Marino’s sister city in Taiwan, which Sun thought spoke to Schaefer’s humbleness.
“Everybody made a speech on the stage except him. He stepped down from the stage… and he made a speech talking to the kids at the same level,” said the vice mayor.
Sun likened Schaefer’s nine-year tenure—five as chief of police and four as city manager—to the Rotary Club’s motto. “Like Rotary says: Service Above Self. That’s what John is.”
– Kev Kurgoghlian
Rotary Also Bids Adieu
Rotary Club of San Marino dedicated a portion of its July 28 luncheon meeting at Southwestern Academy to saying farewell to Schaefer.
“John has been the one who really has been reaching out to the youth,” San Marino Rotary Assistant Gov. Isaac Hung said. “That is something that I’ve not seen before in the police force.” He also said Schaefer was someone who genuinely cared for people in the city.
Rotarian Wayne Carter said Schaefer had been long-involved with the San Marino Motor Classic, which helps raise funds for the Rotary Club of San Marino and other local charities.
“He ran the front end of that whole show,” he said. “He would be there at 6 in the morning. He would handle, manage, coerce and police.”
Schaefer responded, “I would be glad to come back next year for the Motor Classic and do that.”
“It will cost you 25 bucks,” Rotarian Steve Talt joked.
Rotarian Joanna Jimenez said Schaefer has been a leader in the Rotary Club of San Marino, “just the way, you treated and loved everyone.” She said he always held his head up high, even when he was criticized, setting an example for others.
San Marino Rotary President Gilda Moshir said Schaefer helped her tremendously, as did several city council members, in guiding her when she began her small business in San Marino in 2010.
“I’m very thankful for how quickly you responded,” she said.
San Marino Rotary Immediate Past President Mike Driebe referred to Schaefer as a “kindred spirit” and recalled several years back when he traveled with a large group of local citizens and government officials to Taiwan.
“It was a great opportunity for me to get to know him and see him as he really is—kind, charming, warm, engaging and possibly a person with a future career as a diplomat,” he said.
San Marino Rotary President-Elect Denise Wadsworth, who remarked that Schaefer was in her ‘Top Five Mentors,’ said she first met Schaefer on a bus ride to Team Leadership Camp.
“I thought, ‘I don’t know anything about this dude, but I like him because he’s got on red CTs. Those are Converse Tennies. Not the white, but the reds. Because he is a hip, hippy dude.”
Hung read a letter from Rotarian Ruth Mayeda, in which she reminisced about when one of her clients taught Schaefer origami, which is Japanese paper folding. She said, “John, I hope you have continued good fortune, birds of happiness and longevity as you start your new career.”
Moshir read a poem that Rotarian Lois Matthews wrote for Schaefer. It read, “Just a few words about this guy. John T. Schaefer is his name. He’s going off to Fullerton to start a whole new game. They’ll be so lucky to have him there and we will be so sad. But times, they are a changing and for him we’re very glad.”
– Stacy Lee