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Airport Commissioner Don Brown expected to step down in 2021

Retired Burbank police officer Don Brown, who has been airport commissioner for 18 years at the Burb
Retired Burbank Police Officer Don Brown has been commissioner for 18 years on the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority. He was a local police officer for 45 years and hopes to complete 20 years as a commissioner at the airport.
(Raul Roa / Burbank Leader)

Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority board member Don Brown has seen a lot of changes during his tenure with the Hollywood Burbank Airport.

Brown, who has been one of three Burbank commissioners on the authority for the past 18 years, saw his colleagues representing Glendale and Pasadena try to turn the airfield into a major airport decades ago, and he witnessed the years-long backlash from local residents who did not support the idea.

More recently, he’s heard from frustrated residents from communities in the south San Fernando Valley, such as Studio City and Sherman Oaks, about the frequency of flights going over their homes and increased noise levels.

Although Brown, 83, has experienced his own turbulence during his time as an airport commissioner, he has also seen and helped facilitate what he thinks to be positive growth and progress

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In the past decade, he has seen commissioners from all three cities — Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena — start working together and develop a plan to replace the current, dated terminal with a new 355,000-square-foot facility on the other side of the airfield from the existing terminal.

With that major feat out of the way, the longtime commissioner said it will soon be time to step down.

Brown was recently reappointed by the Burbank City Council to serve as one of its airport commissioners for another four years.

However, Brown said bluntly during an interview recently he’s planning to serve only two more years, which would round out a 20-year career with the authority.

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“I only want my two years that [the Burbank City Council] stole from me,” Brown said, chuckling. “I had a four-year term, and they cut it to two.”

In 2016, the joint-powers agreement that governs the airport authority was amended to allow Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena officials to stagger the terms of their commissioners.

The Burbank City Council decided the following year that two of its commissioners should have their terms end in May 2021, while one commissioner should serve for two years until May 2019 to create staggered terms.

Council members appointed Brown, Ray Adams and Bill Wiggins to be their commissioners, but Brown was randomly selected to serve the short term.

Although he didn’t get the four-year term right away, Brown said he was glad he reapplied for the position, even though he plans to step down halfway through.

“If I had left this year and hadn’t put my name in, I wouldn’t have accomplished what I set out to do,” he said.

While some may see Brown’s actions as a way to cap off 20 years at Hollywood Burbank, Brown said serving for two more years would round out 65 years of service to Burbank.

He started working for the city in 1956 as a meter reader for Burbank Water and Power. After four years, he was hired by the Burbank Police Department and was there for 45 years — starting off in parking enforcement and retiring as a lieutenant.

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Brown even managed to sneak in a few years as a planning commissioner for the city.

Between being a police officer and an airport commissioner, Brown said he thinks he’s done his best to make the city where he has lived for most of his life a better place for its residents and visitors.

“I tried to be the best I could be in whatever role I had,” Brown said. “This is my town. Burbank has always been my town.”

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