Guest Column: A year of growth in Seal Beach

Each year, rather than a New Year’s Resolution, I make it a point to pick a word of the year.  The single word should encapsulate the next year’s vision and expectations in my life and my closest relationships.  It would seem to me that Seal Beach and I shared a word in 2015: Growth.  Ronald Regan, our 40th president, said of growth, “There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder.”  I completely agree, and so does our town.

Growth, which the Encarta Dictionary, defines as “the process of becoming larger and more mature through natural development” or “an increase in numbers, size, power or intensity.”

Both of these definitions would apply to Seal Beach.

I personally found myself serving on: Chairman for the Americana Citizen of the Year Committee, the co-chair of the Christmas Parade, director of Run Seal Beach, director of the Seal Beach Police Foundation, director of the Seal Beach Lions Club, announcer and PR for the Fish Fry, working closely with the Los Alamitos Education Foundation and co-chair of the Centennial Marketing working group.

Did I mention running three businesses, selling one at the end of 2014, continuing the other two and being a partner in two other companies?

Or that I managed a long distance relationship with my husband on another continent after being together fifteen years and married for two?  Or that I try to maintain an hour in the gym five days a week for my workouts? Yes, I felt the growth this year, sharply.

Business growth

At the same time, the growth of my peers and leaders within the community continued to evolve, with Diana Brunjes (now Newton), vice president of Bay Hardware marrying Grant Newton of DTS, son of a mentor and Lions / Leos leader Scott Newton.

The owner of CompanyBooks, fellow Lion, and Centennial Brick Sponsorship Coordinator Laura Ellsworth was selected as the Grand Marshal of the Christmas Parade, and, unfortunately, lost her husband just before the parade.

The Chamber presidency moved from Vince Bodiford of our own Sun Newspapers to Tom Rowe of the Abbey, with an emphasis on business rights for amplified entertainment.

Jim Klisanin broke nearly all Lions records for membership and continued to thrive in his real estate business.

Nat Ferguson kicked ass with Cori DeLeon and the Miss Seal Beach court while both still also growing their respective real estate markets.

Rob Jankhe of Javatini’s opened a second location, and it was the second anniversary of the opening of Beach Fitness’ second location in Los Alamitos, Beach Fitness Strength and Conditioning.

Tank Farm, Petals and Pop (Johnny, Michael, Terry and all), and more of the great new boutiques continue to pop up like spring lilies and brighten our Main Street with unique vision and style.

How about the transformation of Woody’s to Avila’s?  That certainly seemed to be a step of growth by better, not bigger.  You know, Ronald Regan also said, “Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all the economic growth in the United States.” That growth is no more evident in Seal Beach.

Businesses changed hands like Café Lafayette while others like Crema Café just kept on growing under the leadership of Tarit Tanjisari.

Did you see that mac-fusion has gotten in Beats headphones, iPhones and now the Apple Watch?

Our three blocks are continuing to thrive on Main Street.  Check out the fabulous new salon, the parlor and your favorite recent new ones like Recharge at Electric and dare we say, yet another new and exciting business, Renew at Electric?

Brian Kyle sold O’Malley’s after the passing of an icon, his dear mother, who was a fixture every morning at the restaurant.

Plus, it was an unusual, unanimous selection of Barbara Blackmun and Harlene Goodrich as co-recipients of the Americana Citizen of the Year award.

What do you think about the incredible new clock donated by the Lions Club to the City of Seal Beach?

It is an iconic part of our design charrette in Seal Beach and will be for another century; I am sure.

Political growth

Politically, the last year also was a year of growth.  There was the final resolution of the Bay City Partner’s Ocean Place project and the clarification of the 25 foot high limit in Old Town.  New construction increased, and the real estate market warmed right back up this year.  I was part of the sale of Main Street Cyclery with Dave Dunton to fabulous new owners, Johnathan and his fiancé Sloan.  They have done a fantastic job developing Main Street Cyclery into what is should have been, and I was unable to do.

We finally see the corner on PCH and Main developed, and it is going to be great.  Even the berm grew this year, and in part, this was due to loose sand that the city was able to bring in via our great and growing partnership with the Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach and the Supervisors of Orange County.  The second half of the year brought back some old and new favorites like the return of Finbar’s, and a Pilates studio that was approved for the Seal Beach Center just last month.  Councilman Gary Miller has continued to be an advocate for Seal Beach on the OCTA Board and has helped out for our interests during all the construction and future change to our road system.

On the revenue side for the government, business license fees, sales tax and other related revenue capture helped realize a balanced budget and healthy reserves for our city.  At the same time, the UUT was reduced this year by 1 percent for the public, which though minor, was a remarkable maneuver when it seems the rest of America and California is increasing taxes and regulation.  Even in our own City Council, Ellery Deaton, former Mayor was named as one of the top 100 in the Orange County Register’s “OC’s 100 Most Influential: 2015’s Game Changers in Orange County” for her work on bridging the gap between businesses and residents along with the growth and completion of the aforementioned Ocean Place / DWP project.

City Manager Jill Ingram, though embattled with some community concerns, came out the other side with greater transparency and a clear commitment to continue her work for the betterment of Seal Beach. Through her executive team, including the tools rolled out online via the finance department and a potentially streamlined parking program with new tags.  Also, a powerful testament to community growth has been the Seal Beach Police Foundation’s ability to award nearly $30,000 to police officers and for specific initiatives, like the homeless liaison, where tools are provided which allow our community to be safer, saner, and more collaborative with the poor or disenfranchised.  At the same time, crime-fighting tools like night vision cameras and rapid, electronic fingerprint scanners are deployed to improve safety and catch criminals.  Chief Joe Stilinovich continues to lead by example by fully embracing not only his department but by truly being part of Seal Beach.

During the last year, I had a powerful set of experiences during a series of personal development retreats, which involuntary made me confront my issues of arrogance, self-promotion, and condescension to others.  I was forced to realize how much I talk, act like a “know-it-all” and command rather than lead. As I found with Run Seal Beach, growth is accompanied by pain, and this pain is part of the price we pay to stand in love and truth regardless of what might be said to us by others.  By no means, am I always humble, and yet in its way, neither is Seal Beach.  We strive to be, yet we are proud of what and who we are.  The same can be said of all the very people in this article.

As a fitness professional, life coach, project manager, marketing, human resource and analytic consultant with expertise in communication, it is shocking how hard it is sometimes to communicate in an effective, efficient and loving way.  Growth reminds us all that change is ongoing and inviolate.  We should continue to do so, for without communication and a willingness to confront and be part of the change, we are left in the dust of the world, and ultimately global village moves on.  As beautiful as Norman Rockwell images are, we can preserve for a time and yet, need to update those models with more modern references and relevant issues – just as we have in Seal Beach.  It might still be “Mayberry by the Sea”, and yet it is better, more wholesome and more prepared to embrace growth.

For the coming year, I see bright things in Seal Beach.  Not only will all the traditional events move forward, but there is also new energy injected into several non-profit organizations, a stronger sense of community will and desire not to make things bigger, just better.  It looks like a compromise for the amplified music ordinance is on its way to ratification, and this will enhance our businesses ability to have another facet to draw in new customers.  As our 30th President, Calvin Coolidge said, “All growth depends upon activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”  I know I will continue to work, as will those who love and cherish Seal Beach.  For that is what we do.  We grow, and we thrive on being reliable, positive, open-minded people who at the end of the day, all want what is best for our town.

But hey, that is just my 2 cents, what about yours?  Happy New Year and may all the words you might choose help you move forward in your 2016.

Seth Eaker-Morgan is a regular contributor to the Sun Newspapers and a local business owner, community activist and resident of Seal Beach and, along with his husband Anthony, in Macau, China. To find out his word of the year for 2016, just ask!