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By Andrea Swayne
Kevin Evans. The name has a ring to it—a good start for someone whose moniker has become well-recognized and often spoken of fondly within the Dana Point community—but in his nearly 27 years on city staff, it has become memorable for so much more. And with his retirement only a few weeks away, we take a look back at the career of Community Services & Parks Director Kevin Evans and his contribution to the city.
Evans is a hardworking, soft-spoken and humble man who usually finds it a bit uncomfortable to talk about his accomplishments. Although he usually prefers to avoid being the center of attention, his tireless work in Dana Point has made him one of the community’s most recognized and respected city employees—by both co-workers and citizens.
Evans grew up in Chula Vista and graduated from San Diego State University.
He started his professional recreation career working for the U.S. Navy as a civilian employee, first running a rec program at a Naval military housing area. He later became the director of manpower, welfare and recreation at Balboa Hospital. His first full-time job in the municipal sector in recreation was in Rancho Cucamonga. After losing two fences and one roof to the high winds and temperatures there, he and his first wife decided to move back to the San Diego area and he took a job in Poway.
“My wife (at the time) was also in recreation field and we both tried to find employment back in the San Diego area,” Evans said. “She got a position in San Juan Capistrano, so we moved to San Clemente and I commuted to Poway until I found a job opening in Dana Point.”
In January 1990, Evans came to Dana Point as a recreation supervisor for the then Capistrano Bay Park District. At the time, the district was not an official department of the city, but a recreation “division.”
In 1994, the city consolidated the division into the city and Evans was promoted to recreation superintendent. Then in 2008, the city manager consolidated the parks and recreation departments to create what is now known as the Community Services & Parks and Evans continued his climb from superintendent, to manager to the director’s position he now holds.
“The growth of the city’s events and services offerings from 1990 to today has been the product of many years of hard work I couldn’t have done without a great staff,” Evans said. “When our summer concerts first started, we were excited to have 500 people show up. Now we host an average of 3,500 per concert.”
Under Evans’ leadership Dana Point’s event program has also grown to include food and music festivals, barbecue contests, car shows, movies in the park and more, and elevated the city’s status as an entertainment destination, not only for residents but for out-of-towners as well.
“Seeing this city grow from a modest rec program to becoming a regional provider of recreational services has been rewarding,” Evans said. “We did a survey in 2012 and found that around 60 percent of event attendees travel her from out of town.”
Reaching such a substantial market outside the city’s boundaries speaks highly of the work the parks and recreation department has accomplished under Evans’ leadership.
Other highlights of Evans’ career include the growth of the city’s senior services after a 2009 Master Plan study identified a need due to a high retirement rate among residents.
Under Evans’ leadership, the department secured a partnership with the Beach Cities Senior Club and Age Well Senior Services. The collaboration resulted in the addition of a full range of activities and services for Dana Point’s aging population, from social gatherings and monthly theme events to home delivered meals, field trips and an onsite congregate senior meal program. The meal program is available to five days a week for a $1.50 donation, but nobody gets turned away if they can’t pay. A partnership with the Saddleback College Emeritus program was also added, to provide additional fitness and educational programming for seniors.
“One of the things I’m extremely proud of is the joint partnerships we have developed with many agencies and organizations—the County of Orange, the Chamber of Commerce, nonprofits—bringing everyone together to provide a collaborative effort as a group with a common goal,” Evans said. “Back in the day everybody operated independently and it wasn’t until we joined forces that we’ve been able to achieve a lot of success in our community.”
Evans went on to praise city staff, City Council and Dana Point residents for being very supportive of the efforts of his department staff over the years.
“The people throughout City Hall are some of the best people you could ever work with and the residents of Dana Point are the best people to work for,” Evans said. “We have been able to achieve so much because of the support from the top down. I really appreciate the fact that we have had constant support from our city council in providing the tools to be successful, budget wise, staffing, contract services, etc. They’ve allowed us to really broaden our horizons and bring new and exciting services and events.”
Evans and his wife of 12 years, Sylvia, are moving to Mendocino County, about two and a half hours north of San Francisco, to be closer to their children—two daughters and a son—and a grandson who will be 2 in July.
“Our children and grandson are settled in Northern California,” he said. “Wanting to be a part of their lives is our main reason for moving there. Our grandson Bearick is the most incredible addition to our family. To share in the life of a grandchild is our biggest motivation. There’s a different feeling with grandchildren. We’re just smitten and really don’t want to miss seeing him grow up and being a part of his life.”
Further motivation comes in the tranquility of the small coastal town they are relocating to.
“Our new home is right near the ocean, surrounded by redwoods, beautiful blue sky and has a really tranquil feeling about it,” Evans said. “As much as I love Dana Point and San Clemente, I love the opportunity to get back to nature and be in a more quiet area where three cars on Highway 1 is a traffic jam and the only time you have to stop is for a deer crossing the road.”
Evans said, looking back at his time with the city, he has loved his job largely due to the nature of the service to the community.
“People come to us because they want to,” he said. “They want to participate in something for themselves or for the family. It’s the best part of municipal service in my opinion.”
Evans said the idea of actually leaving his post has yet to sink in.
“I never thought I’d see this day,” he said. “You always work toward this goal but you never really envision it. I’m going to retire. It’s such a surreal feeling. My dad taught me at a very early age, to leave everything better than when you found it. I feel that I’ve done that in Dana Point and I’m leaving the parks and rec department better than when I started, so I’m proud of that.
“I’m going to miss everyone. The friendships I’ve developed in this community and among the city staff are ones that I will cherish forever. Being here 27 years you can’t help but develop good friendships and make great memories.”
Looking back, Evans said there were a few people in the community who made a lasting impression on him.
“Knowing and working with the late Gene Burris (longtime community center volunteer and Dana Point Youth Baseball announcer) will forever be a good memory for me,” he said. “Gene instilled the idea that Dana Point is our home and everyone who comes in the front door is coming into our home, and should be treated as such. It has been an honor to work with the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group, the VFW, Relay for Life and other nonprofits with goals for supporting others and being a part of helping them achieve their mission.”
Evans said although it is a bittersweet decision to leave his friends and colleagues behind, he is confident it is the right decision at the right time both for his family and for the city.
“I wanted to make sure it was the right time,” he said. “Did I achieve everything I wanted to here? No. But I definitely set the city in the right path to do so. So it feels right. History is the only thing that will ever show whether you were truly successful or not. History will tell.
“My very first supervisor said to me, ‘You’ll never get rich in recreation but you’ll be rewarded every day of your life by people coming up to you and saying thank you.’ And that proved to be true and has been the driving force for all I have done. I have loved providing a new or fun experience for people who appreciate the effort. From watching little kids learning to play basketball and seeing that smile on their face when they make their first basket, to talking with seniors who return from a field trip and thank us for the great experience, knowing that my staff and I helped make it happen has been my reward.”
Evans’ official last day as a city employee is May 6.
To read comments from fellow city staff members regarding his retirement, visit www.danapointtimes.com.
Below is a selection of comments from Kevin Evans’ colleagues on his impending retirement:
“Kevin’s been such a good boss. I get teary-eyed walking past his office and thinking about him not being there. We’ve worked together for 26 years and it’s going to be a huge void for all of us. He’s done such a great job for all of us and the community. The whole staff feels the same way. We’re losing a great guy—patient, kind and willing to work with anybody—but we are all happy for him and for Sylvia. I’m sure he won’t miss the daily grind but we will sure miss him.”—Sue Steinriede, administrative aide.
“While I’m going to miss Kevin, I want to congratulate him and wish him well on his retirement. He’s always been one of the staff members who I could call day or night and he’d always pick up the phone. After giving the city many years of tireless service he deserves to spend some quality private time with his bride and his grandkids. I am happy for him.”—Doug Chotkevys, city manager
“Kevin has been my friend and mentor for the last 13 years. I think he’s had a significant impact on improving the city’s recreation programs and events. He’s been part of the team that’s really changed Dana Point into a destination city. You see that through our popular events, such as the Concerts in the Park, food festivals and so many other events. So much of this good stuff has Kevin’s fingerprints on them.”—Brian McClure, parks manager
“Kevin has been here so long and been a great director. He’s given us great direction and leadership. He’s the type of manager who trusts his staff and knows that once he’s given direction we will go full-force and make our programs successful. It will be sad to see him go but I know we will be able to continue on with the philosophy and what Kevin taught us. I’ve been here with him for nine years but we go back to 1993 when I worked for the city of San Clemente. Kevin was a Parks and Recreation commissioner there at the time. When he told me he was leaving I got teary eyed. He’s like an institution here. I am happy for him though. He’s going to live his dream retirement.”—Sherry Murphy, recreation manager
“I’ve been working with Kevin for eight and a half years and he’s been a great boss. He created a very warm and family-focused environment here. We get a lot done and it’s always been about serving the people. I think it’s going to hit more when he’s actually gone next month. It’s a little bit surreal to think that he won’t be here. It’s sad but we are all happy that he’s moving and will get to enjoy his grandkids and more peace with Sylvia. We will really miss him.—Monique Leon, recreation coordinator