Long-time employees honored by H.B. leaders

Eric Charlonne was a meter reader for Huntington Beach when he asked his supervisor at the time how long he had been working for the department.

When his boss said he had been with the city for four years, Charlonne, then 20, couldn't believe that anyone could work at a single location for so long.

That was in 1974. Now 60, Charlonne can claim 40 years with the city and is now its construction manager.

"I never thought that I'd stay in one place this long," he said. "I kept getting advancements here, the city's always treated me respectfully and I've never had an issue."

During the City Council meeting May 5, Surf City honored its employees, with a special thanks to those who have been with the city for more than 30 years, as part of National Public Service Recognition Week.

Several employees, including Charlonne, received honorary surfboard awards as tokens of appreciation for their years of service with the city.

Fire Cpt. Michael Tamiyasu, also an award recipient, recalled his 41 years working for Huntington Beach.

In need of a job, Tamiyasu applied for the Fire Department's apprenticeship after seeing a story about the new program in the Daily Pilot.

"Those guys get to stand out in shorts and be outside," he recalled saying to himself when he was 21 years old.

Though he had no experience with public safety, Tamiyasu was selected and has been with the department since 1973. He plans to retire sometime in January, with thoughts of possibly moving to Bend, Ore., with his wife.

"I feel very fortunate to been able to have a long career in the fire service," he said. "It's a job that I love and it's very rewarding."

Charlonne just happened to fall into his job with the city. When he was 20, the Minnesota native's employment history consisted of odd jobs.

During the early 1970s, he was a roadie for the band Deep Purple when it toured the East Coast and worked as a roustabout, or an oil field worker, in Farmington, N.M.

He landed a job with Huntington Beach after his girlfriend's father suggested that he submit an application to the city. Though he started as a meter reader, people from the engineering department found out that he knew how to draw conceptual layouts for new projects, Charlonne said.

"This was before AutoCAD," he said. "They need draftsmen, people to draw plans."

Though he did not have an engineering degree or formal training, city engineers liked his work and gave him a position with the department. Charlonne eventually learned how to draft design plans.

"I've always had a knack for math and I don't have a degree, but I've done a lot of design work, from hydrology, hydraulics and things like that," he said. "It's not like I just draw pretty pictures."

Charlonne has worked on more than 500 projects, tallying an estimated total cost of $500 million, for the city. While the majority of his projects have been street repairs, he's had his share of highlight assignments.

He was responsible for the lifeguard headquarters and various city buildings along Pacific Coast Highway and worked on the Main Street streetscape in 1991, which turned downtown Huntington Beach into what it is today.

Charlonne's favorite project was the Huntington Central Park Sports Complex. He said that although political and environmental issues clouded the project, planning the sports facility was one of his most memorable achievements.

Charlonne is calling it quits Thursday and said he is looking forward to the time off.

"I've had my time here and it's been fun," he said. "It's been a lot of fun actually, but 40 years is enough."

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