By Kirk Sanderson
Longtime Carlsbad volunteers Bill and Bonnie Dominguez and Mike McMahon have been named Carlsbad Citizens of the Year for 2017. This year’s honorees, selected by a committee of Carlsbad residents, were recognized during a ceremony on July 11 at Carlsbad City Hall.
The Citizen of the Year program is more than 40 years old and honors community members who have given their time and energy toward the civic improvement, beautification and betterment of the City of Carlsbad.
Edmond “Bill” and Bonnie Dominguez have dedicated countless hours to the betterment of Carlsbad as activists for a number of causes, committees and civic organizations, the city says in a news release,
Bill is a member of one of Carlsbad’s pioneer families, the Bibiano Gastelum family, and attended the old Pine Street Elementary School, which is now the site of the Carlsbad Senior Center. He graduated from Oceanside High because Carlsbad High School was yet to be built.
“I’ve lived in Carlsbad all my life, so I’ve seen it change from a small rural town to a place that is now a destination for tourism,” said Bill.
Bill and Bonnie are founders and lifelong members of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation, which was established in 1990 to help preserve and enhance the lagoon and surrounding lands for the community’s benefit.
“There were a lot of proposals that were not in the lagoon’s best interest in the mid 80s,” Bill recalled. The foundation has played an important role in protecting the lagoon’s health, including the rooting out of Caulerpa taxifolia, a lagoon-choking alga, in 2000.
Bill has been involved in many civic causes, including two stints on the city’s Planning Commission, from 1969 to 1976 and from 2001 to 2011. He served on the city’s General Plan Review Committee in the 1990s, and on the Carlsbad Cablevision Commission; he was the former president of the Carlsbad Jaycees, which was instrumental in the construction of the swimming pool at Carlsbad Boys Club; and he has been a longtime supporter of the Carlsbad Boys and Girls Club. He also served on the Encina Water Pollution Control Facility Board for 15 years.
Bonnie worked on the city staff as a secretary and administrative assistant to the City Council for many years, then remained active as a volunteer after her retirement. She has been serving lunch to about 130 seniors every Friday for 24 years at the Carlsbad Senior Center.
One of Bonnie’s favorite causes is the Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park. The ranch was established by Hollywood actor Leo Carrillo, best known for his role as Pancho in the 1950s television series, “The Cisco Kid.” Carrillo dreamed of re-creating a working Spanish rancho and saw that dream come true on his 2,500-acre spread in eastern Carlsbad. Most of the land was sold for development in 1960, and the core of the ranch and structures were deeded to the city in 1977. The land sat idle until Alan and Joan Kindle founded Friends of Carrillo Ranch in 1990, and worked with the city to restore the property as a park.
After she retired from the city Bonnie volunteered as a docent at the ranch and has served as secretary of the Friends of Carrillo Ranch for the past 18 years.
“It is definitely one of the jewels of Carlsbad,” Bonnie said.
As a longtime Carlsbad resident, Bill remembers Carrillo’s visits to Carlsbad’s Barrio neighborhood.
“A lot of us knew Leo Carrillo,” said Bill. “My grandfather owned the old pool hall in the Barrio, and Leo would stop by and chat with my grandfather.”
Bill and Bonnie Dominguez have also been involved in Carlsbad Sister City Committee, the Carlsbad Charitable Foundation, the Carlsbad Historical Society, and the San Diego State University North County Advisory Group, before the establishment of California State University at San Marcos.
Bill and Bonnie agree they love Carlsbad, are proud to be a part of it, and will continue to support it through their volunteer activities.
“When you’ve been in the city a long time you get involved,” said Bonnie. “It makes you feel good and you meet a lot of good people.”
McMahon also is a longtime city volunteer. When he retired as a Hewlett-Packard executive, he couldn’t exactly foresee what the next chapter of his life would bring, he said. Now he knows that volunteering is an everyday part of his existence, as he has worked to make the city better for his fellow residents.
McMahon’s volunteerism began by matching his skill as a photographer with a city need, when he began volunteer teaching at the Carlsbad Senior Center. Six years later, McMahon has taught more than 10,000 students in a wide range of photographic, video and computer skills.
His life as a volunteer teacher began with a conversation he had with a friend who taught photo-related topics in a suburb of Dallas. McMahon approached Valerie Fisher, activities coordinator at the Carlsbad Senior Center, about teaching similar classes in Carlsbad. He was in the classroom the next month, February 2011.
McMahon’s first classes, “Photoshop Elements” and “Getting the Most from Your Digital Camera,” were structured as workshops for groups of 15 to 20 students. Within a few months, he expanded the class offerings to include iPad Intro, Travel Photography, and Scanning Family Photos. Average attendance jumped to 40 to 60 students per session.
In July 2011, he was recruited to take pictures as a volunteer at the city-run Carlsbad Triathlon, for the city to use in promotional materials. He has since taken pictures of the Triathlon, EGGStravanza and Snores & S’mores, for the city’s use.
McMahon says his success comes from simplifying the subject matter and keeping his classes entertaining, which can be a challenge as so many of his subjects are technically loaded.
“A class is all about engaging an audience,” he said. “I try to keep it light.” He asks students to evaluate each class so he can pick up tips on ways to improve and to solicit ideas for new subjects to teach.
“You kept me laughing and I learned a lot,” is a typical student comment. Many people enroll in a second McMahon class after taking their first and come back as new topics are added.
His classes are designed to help people cope with our increasingly technical world.
“I’ve taught classes on Android phones, Apple TV, and iCloud storage,” he said. “We’ve covered Google Maps, making photo books, video conferencing, and Adobe Lightroom.”
He sets up his classes as a recipe and walks his students through the topic step by step. Most of his teaching is at the Carlsbad Senior Center. Recently he began teaching hands-on classes at the Carlsbad City Library Exploration HUB.
McMahon recently added a new topic to his repertoire, “Wildfire, Are You Ready to Evacuate?”, which is based on his first-hand experiences of evacuating during the wildfires in 2007 and 2014. In this class, he offers tips on preparation for emergency evacuation, such as registering cell phones for evacuation notices, and how to pack quickly for an orderly and timely evacuation.
McMahon is an active member of Carlsbad’s Community Emergency Response Team and serves as the coordinator for CERT’s Auxiliary Communications group, a team of HAM radio operators.
He also volunteered to co-lead a support group for families of Alzheimer’s patients for the San Diego County Alzheimer’s Association, when his mother was suffering from dementia. He also volunteers for the Carlsbad Community Theater, is a member of the North County Videomakers club, and is a member and past president of the North County Photographic Society.