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'He didn't sweat the small stuff'

Herb Kolodner, pictured with his wife, Julie, recently retired from serving on the Crescent City Council. (Photo submitted).
Herb Kolodner, pictured with his wife, Julie, recently retired from serving on the Crescent City Council. (Photo submitted).

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Retired Crescent City Councilman Herb Kolodner has, at times, thought people being interviewed on television were making fools of themselves, and should have retired years ago.

So when Kolodner noticed his own hearing declining earlier this year, he decided it was time to bow out gracefully.

"During the last six months, I've noticed a growing decline in the acuity of my hearing," he said. "It's frustrating and embarrassing, and after one meeting I came home and said ‘I just absolutely can't do it anymore.'"

The decision was not a sad one for him because he felt that he had done "the best I could" and that it was his time to make room for somebody else.

Kolodner is now 82 years old.

"He definitely comes from the ‘Greatest Generation,'" remembered City of Crescent City Attorney Thomas French. "He was practical, he didn't sweat the small stuff, he didn't get caught up in collateral political battles."

French said that any council, and certainly the one with which he interfaces, would miss "the voice of reason."

"I respected him, I'll miss him," French said.

City Manager Eli Naffah also respected Kolodner.

"I didn't work with him as long as some of the others, but I thought he was an exceptional council member," Naffah said. "I really appreciated his deliberation and thoughtfulness, and I hoped he could have continued."

Kolodner looked back over the years in his Pacific Ocean home.

"It's been a good life – a life devoted to public service either in the military or in the field of fire safety," he said.

Kolodner served more than 21 years in the U.S. Army, working his way up from Private to Lieutenant Colonel before he retired.

He married his wife, Julie, in a formal military ceremony held in Kronberg Castle near Frankfurt, Germany.

"She did some modeling work; she was well occupied with fashion modeling in Europe," Kolodner said. "She worked for a German designer, then we had children."

His military career was a combination of active and reserve duty. Kolodner used his reserve years to gain two bachelor degrees from the University of Maryland.

When New York University offered him a full scholarship, he and his family moved stateside from Germany, and he completed his master's and doctorate degrees.

He then launched his second career, which brought with it director of safety, security and fire protection at the Warner Lambert and Celanese Corps., among others. Not once did a fatality occur on his 15-year watch in the corporate world.

Before then, he worked for General Electric and in RCA's Ballistic Early Warning System, where he monitored radar screens "the size of three football fields" to keep watch on armed missile sites during the Cold War years.

"Along the way I became a licensed professional engineer in California – I was one of the first 15 in the country," Kolodner said.

The Kolodners moved to Crescent City in 1999. During his civic terms, Kolodner served on the council, one year as mayor and two years as mayor pro-tem.

He considers the elimination of blight to be one of the high points of his years on the City of Crescent City Council.

"It's gratifying to see the difference it's made in six years," Kolodner said. "People are getting with it; only rarely did we have to use the big stick."

He's also proud that the city has a more adequate water system. Cities can't grow, he pointed out, without water, sewer, good roads, streets and sidewalks.

"The council has taken the view that you grow or you die," he said.

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