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San Clemente : It’s Off to Great Outdoors for Retiring City Clerk

Veteran City Clerk Max L. Berg, an avid hunter and fisherman, is calling it quits after 35 years in a number of municipal posts and plans a dream retirement for an outdoorsman.

Berg, whose last day at City Hall will be Friday, in summer will operate a campground at Shaver Lake in the High Sierra. In the fall, he will return to the concession stand near the Salton Sea that he has run on weekends for 20 years. He will spend other months at his San Clemente home.

“I wanted to do something plain and simple, without the pressures of this job,” said Berg, who estimated he has attended more than 1,000 City Council meetings.

He said the campground job is from 4 p.m. until midnight, leaving him plenty of time for fishing in the mornings. He and his wife, Helen, will live in their travel trailer at the camp.

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Berg has seen major changes since he arrived in 1948. The population then was about 2,000; it is 15 times that now, and is expected to double again with construction of 15,000 more houses by the turn of the century.

Berg, 60, is a Nebraska native who discovered California when he was assigned to Camp Pendleton during World War II. He says he has conflicting feelings about all the growth.

“You always have mixed emotions. I remember San Clemente when it was small, quiet and peaceful, but it’s good to see orderly development--you can’t be selfish about a place like this.”

Berg and his wife raised four children in the city, and he called it “a great place to raise a family.”

His first job in San Clemente was as a school custodian. His first joined the city in 1950, as a reserve police officer.

By 1953, Berg was deputy to then-City Clerk Dan Evans, and a business-license inspector. When Evans became city manager in 1956, Berg ran for the clerk’s post and won the first of eight four-year terms. He was unopposed in each election, but joked that it could have been “a sign that no one else really wants the job.”

He counts among his proudest achievements his selection, in 1964, as the city’s first Citizen of the Year, and his membership on the committee of six that helped bring the planned Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library to the city.

“When the library comes, it’s going to be a fantastic thing for San Clemente,” Berg said. He said that during the years of the Nixon Administration, the Western White House “put San Clemente on the map.”

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Marge Will, Berg’s deputy, will take over the clerk’s duties until a successor can be hired through open recruitment, Berg said.


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