On Tuesday, Inyo Supervisors voted unanimously to name the new Inyo County Consolidated Office Building on Highway 6 next to the Grocery Outlet in honor of the late County Adminstrative Officer Clint Quilter.
Current CAO Leslie Chapman described it as a “highly popular idea.”
Assistant Clerk of the Board Darcy Ellis said 13 letters were submitted to the county in support of the idea.
Supervisor Matt Kingsley made an impassioned speech on Quilter’s behalf. And explained that “this building [the new county office building] is not a monument to government.”
It was designed, he said, to 1. save taxpayer money, and 2. get work done.
Which, Kingsley implied, fit Quilter’s personality and temperament as a public servant.
The building was certainly not designed as a paean to architecture: In fact, Supervisor Rick Pucci described the building as “ugly” during the meeting.
Darcy Ellis read the names of the 13 entities/persons who submitted letters. All came from employee groups, county department heads, and the like.
Public input on the building’s naming outside the standing bureaucracy was not solicited.
Okay, so the above would serve as the innocuous news story, and I would just as soon leave it there, but … how can I retain my reputation as an asshole without calling out this bloated testament to bureaucratic pandering?
Because there are scores of folks with longer and more distinguished histories in Inyo County who could easily have been recognized. Within the past year, we’ve lost a local icon of volunteerism in Chuck Kilpatrick, a war hero in Bob Waggoner, an entrepreneur in Erick Schat who was by all accounts extremely generous to his staff.
Those with longer memories wonder how an administrator who served for less than three years outranks a man like John K. Smith, who served as Inyo County Administrator for 33 years from 1949-1982.
Still others gave names like Bob Tanner and Art Barlow and Bill Whorff.
But the public was never asked to weigh in on naming the building it paid for.
That’s half my beef.
The other half is … you know, I have no animosity towards Clint Quilter. None. I probably had three conversations with the guy in my entire life. And maybe that’s the issue. He was so under-the-radar, popular and clearly beloved within his county government bubble, but fairly unknown outside that realm (with the exception of coaching Lone Pine high school basketball).
What he’s credited with doing to warrant his name on a building – seeing the county office building and Bishop Airport projects to completion – neither of these projects were initiated by him.
One could argue former CAO Kevin Carunchio was far more instrumental in advancing both projects, but then, as I stated at a Monday town hall meeting to Supervisor Rick Pucci, Kevin’s unpopular, because his leadership style was akin to a bull in a china shop. Whereas Clint Quilter was super nice. Everyone loved Clint. And why not? Perhaps his signature accomplishment as CAO was pushing through big raises for his management staff and board. As Supervisor Dan Totheroh said Tuesday, “Clint was a strong pusher for valuing employees.”
But it was when Board Chairman Jeff Griffiths talked about Clint being recognized “in perpetuity” that it really kicked in for me.
The same way it kicks in when I’m driving up and down the grade, marveling at the Wheeler Crest, squinting up at Swall Meadows, trying to identify that former lot upon which I owned a former house, a house I figured I’d live in for the rest of my life.
As opposed to the mountains and the skyline which will look the exact same long after we’re all gone.
But in human terms, perpetuity is fleeting. Fifty years from now, when the County has outlived the useful life of the Clint G. Quilter Consolidated Office Building, it will con the taxpayers into believing it needs a new home. And Clint’s name will not travel to the next building, which will receive a new name of a future CAO who hasn’t even been born yet. Nope, Clint’s name will ultimately end up in the dug-up rubble of a backhoe. Like mine. And yours.