On Local Government: I liked Les Guthrie

King Harbor Lessee Holder Les Guthrie

King Harbor lessee holder Les Guthrie walked the talk.

I liked Les Guthrie.

That is not a phrase you would necessarily find emanating from the lips of elected or appointed officials in Redondo Beach. You might get a statement of respect, but not one of “liking.”

The reason I liked him was not because we agreed on some things, such as the limited cranial capacity of certain city officials. I liked him because true entrepreneurs, people who have a certain business gene that generates “creation” rather than merely a strong competitive position, are rare.

No doubt, Les was a curmudgeon, although I only met him after I joined the Redondo Beach City Council in 1993. By that time, the bad blood between him and the City regarding his King Harbor leasehold had gotten to the point where most of the discussions that were occurring were through lawyers. Considering the adversaries he was dealing with, I don’t blame him. Certain fools he had to face over the bargaining table would have made anyone lose any semblance of hope.

Using a file coding system that would have defied the code breakers who helped win World War II, Les could provide any scrap of documentation ever created in his dealings with the city. Never once did he say during the years when I was trying to unravel the intricacies of city/lessee policy, “I can only provide you details from memory.”

He was obstreperous, always willing to appear at City Council meetings and let everyone know where the “fools on the hill” were trying to lead him. This did not bring him into the favor of those elected and appointed officials who consider anyone who does not follow their path as the devil incarnate.

Les was also willing to poke a stick at the city to try to get some action, pushing the envelope of what he was (his opinion) or was not (the City’s opinion) able to do with his leasehold.

The primary problem between the City and Les was that they had completely different ideas for the Harbor’s future. Naturally, it was all about control. It always is. However, the City’s problem was that their unstated goal, never spoken anywhere within earshot of the public, was to “let things get bad enough so the residents will allow them to do anything necessary.”

Les was not that kind of person. He had ideas that flew in the face of that conception. True, they were self-serving. But, he had the upper hand in the argument since it was his leasehold, in which he had invested his money and into which he was willing to invest more…assuming there was a future place for him to recoup that investment.

City staffs are rarely populated by people who think “out of the box.” (Sometimes, they don’t even have the capacity of thinking inside that box.) More importantly, they despise people who don’t succumb to their alleged “power.”

Les was his own man. I liked him for it.

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