By Gary Luster
Bouncing back from adversity is not necessarily a noble endeavor. It is more about survival and resilience to overcome obstacles.
Don Dear is overcoming certain physical accidents in his later year to get back to living.
The Dear name is synonymous with the city that he and his family have served for decades. His mother, Mayme Dear, had the city library named in her honor.
But it was her son Donald, who pored his soul into the city from politics to civic activities and finally, recreational pastimes.
Dear, 83, served as mayor of Gardena from 1982 to 2001 and before that, served on the Gardena City Council from 1970 to 1974 and again from 1978 to 1982.
He got into politics to represent the people, which may sound like a cliché but for Dear, was absolute truth. Dear’s presence on the council and in the mayor’s office gave him the opportunity to bring reality to one of his biggest goals
“I was interested in fairness and everyone having a chance to be heard and I felt that was important,” Dear said recently.
He describes himself as a artisan democrat who has been part of the Gardena Valley Democratic Club since the days of JFK.
In fact, during his first time serving as a political volunteer, Dear knocked on doors to garner votes for JFK. He said that experience marked the beginning of his career in politics.
But politics wasn’t his only ambition. Dear was also employed as a U.S. history and world history teacher at Stephen White Middle School in Carson, where, in 1983, he was selected as Teacher of the Year for Region A of the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Because of his background in education as a classroom teacher (he taught history at Stephen White Junior High School inCarson),Dear found himself sympathizing with the striking teachers at LAUSD considering that he was a striking teacher himself during a teacher strike more than 30 years ago.
When asked about the impact of students losing instructional time, Dear responded that he was not concerned because of the fact that the students have already lost so much instructional time due to the pandemic.
As a teacher, Dear believes that instructional time for students happens not just in the classroom but can also happen outside of the classroom.
Recently, he saw a flyer from the Gardena Recreation Department announcing the return of the Gardena Chess Tournament on April 15. During his years teaching at White school, Dear worked with the city of Gardena Recreation Department to develop the annual chess tournaments — which has been on hiatus for three years due to the pandemic — featuring chess players from kindergarten to 12th grade.
“I think it’s a good mind game,” Dear said. “You’re responsible for the consequences and you have to think things out and you have to take time to do things as opposed to impulsively making a move.”
In addition to the chess tournaments, Dear did some sports coaching for the Gardena Recreation Department. A col- league once called him to ask if he could go to Bell Park and coach a baseball team. Dear ended up coaching boys base- ball, flag football and basketball for the next 19 years.
After his careers in both politics and education ended in the year 2000, Dear was invited to run for a seat on the West Basin Municipal Water District Board of Directors. He won election to the board in November 2000. He is currently serving his fifth term as a representative of the Division V cities of Gardena,Hawthorne, Lawndale, and the unincorporated area of El Camino Village after winning re-election in November 2016.
“The water district is a water wholesaler and they have cities and water companies who are customers and we sell the aqueduct water that comes from the California aqueduct and the Colorado River aqueduct,” he said. “They also have a recycling plant in El Segundo where they take waste water from a hyperion plant and turn it into useful water for industrial purposes.”
Dear’s civic affiliations include the Gardena Elks, Gardena High School Booster Club, Gardena Jaycees, Gardena Valley Cultural Arts Corporation, Gardena Valley Friends of the Library, Gardena Valley Lions Kiwanis Club of Gardena Valley, and the Gardena-Carson Family YMCA.
He currently serves on the West Basin Municipal Water District as President of the Board and Chair of the Finance and Administration Commit- tee. He previously served as one of the West Basin representatives on the board of directors of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California from 2013 to 2018.