Half Moon Bay Patch asked who you thought the Half Moon Bay Person of the Year was for 2012, and the comments, e-mails and Facebook replies all pointed to one very important Coastsider: Paul Perkovic, known to many as a strong leader, environmentalist, and advocate for marriage equality who served for 17 years on Montara’s Water and Sanitary District board and 10 years as a Midcoast Community Councilman.
Perkovic died at the age of 63 on Nov. 26, 2012, from pancreatic cancer, and will be remembered by many for his unwavering dedication to public service and for protecting the rural landscape of the Coast that he called home.
A resident of Montara, Perkovic is not so much the Half Moon Bay Person of the Year as he is the Coastside Person of the Year because he brought a depth of knowledge on political, environmental, and ethical issues to the entire Coastal community. Amid adversity Perkovic was known for being civil and fair — the best example of how someone could be working alongside lifelong adversaries and long-standing opponents.
Some called him “Perk.” Others remember him as a morning regular at 3-Zero Café at the Half Moon Bay Airport. He most certainly was a mentor to many.
“Paul advised me to take risks and cautioned me not to risk credibility,” said Harbor Commissioner Sabrina Brennan. “Paul's unique blend of charm, formality, dignity, wisdom, sense of adventure, research, knowledge and deep passion for environmental and social justice was delightful.”
“Paul strove to find the fairest decision for the most people for the longest term," said longtime friend Kathryn Slater-Carter. "He was considerate and polite to everyone in all his interactions. He worked hard to find the fairest possible, most cost effective solutions to improve the entire Midcoast — including Half Moon Bay — for all who live here and for future generations.”
Many that knew him say his best contribution was securing the California-American Water Company (CalAm) water system for Midcoast residents and consolidating water and sewer for Montara and Moss Beach.
On the Montara Water and Sanitary District board, Perkovic worked to finish the Sewer Authority Midcoast sewer plant in 1999. From 2000 to 2003, he encouraged the community to pass the $19K local bond to enable the community to acquire the RWE (ex-Citizens Utilities) water district by the then Montara Sanitary District, making that district the now Montara Water and Sanitary District.
“He helped make the decisions that took a failing, broken down, leaky, expensive water district to one that works for all the citizens at fair rates,” said Slater-Carter.
At the Midcoast Community Council, Perkovic worked to get the County Local Coastal Program policies reviews amended after 30 years and implemented.
“He used the Coastal Act and the San Mateo County Local Coastal Program as a yard stick to be fair to all sides and to preserve the coast to be the treasure for San Mateo County and California that it is,” said Slater-Carter. “He also pushed for the most cost effective solution to end the wet weather overflow sewerage spills at Surfers Beach in El Granada. He attended the start-up ceremonies last fall in 2012.”
Perkovic was certainly generous with his time, spending countless hours at meetings, speaking, researching, and writing analytical pieces, “evaluating all possible decisions to be considered,” said Slater-Carter. “He did this with a great love for people and the environment.”
He also did this with an unprecedented level of grace, intelligence, and thoughtfulness. Others that knew Perkovic describe him as “articulate, dignified and courageous,” said Cid Young, who adds that she admired Perkovic for many years.
“At public meetings, whether presiding over a Water and Sanitary District meeting, at a Midcoast Community Council or Fire Board Meeting or speaking at a Planning Commission Hearing or the San Mateo Board of Supervisors, he was always organized, courteous, concise and addressed his excellent, well-thought-out points, which paid homage to his Harvard education and depth of knowledge on the subject he addressed,” she said.
His friends remember his “delightful sense of humor, artfully used in some very stressful situations,” said Slater-Carter. “He maintained calm in the face of tough adversity.”
It's true that Perkovic's passing marks the end of an era for many on the Coast.
“With no obvious successor, Paul took with him to the grave his unique brand of polite, but persistent, discourse in his approach to often volatile Coastside political and environmental issues,” said David Vespremi, who describes Perkovic as “thoughtful, persuasive and meticulous.”
“There are no words to express the Coastside's loss after his departure from our lives. The world somehow seemed better when he was here,” said Young.
Still, not everyone liked to hear what Perkovic had to say, yet those who met him will say that Perkovic was never publicly disagreeable and many people maintained a high regard for the man.
“Even folks like me who did not see eye-to-eye with Paul Perkovic on Coastal issues have a great deal of admiration for him, said Half Moon Bay resident Brian Ginna.
Half Moon Bay Review editor Clay Lambert in an opinion piece about Perkovic wrote: “Perhaps it was his Midwestern roots. Maybe it was confidence in his own intellect. Whatever the reason, Perkovic’s legacy on the Coastside includes an insistence upon civility and a certain dignity. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but I can tell you Perkovic raised the level of any debate. If he had done nothing else, that would have been plenty for me.”
Indeed, Perkovic’s legacy on the Coast embraces poise and decorum in the face of many tough challenges.
“Paul, it seemed, was less impressed with whether or not one shared his opinion or approach to a topic as he was whether one could stand and intelligently support his or her position objectively,” said Vespremi.
“Paul Perkovic is the Coastside Person of the Year. He taught by example and lived life as a fully engaged citizen,” said Brennan. “Paul's dedication to public service is a tremendous inspiration.”
Congratulations, Paul Perkovic, for being recognized by your community as the 2012 Coastside Person of the Year.
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