Lobdell: Leaving, but I’ll be in touch

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Sadly, this will be my last column for the Daily Pilot — at least for now. I’ve signed a 90-day contract with the city of Costa Mesa to better communications with its residents, employees and the media.

Yes, I like a challenge.

Writing again for the Pilot for the past six months has been more fun than I ever imagined. The Newport-Mesa community is fertile ground for a columnist, and I leave with a list of story ideas still undone. Maybe I’ll return in time for the next Reagan statue planned for Newport Beach or the trial of Newport-Mesa Supt. Jeffrey Hubbard. We’ll see.

I’d like to thank Pilot Editor John Canalis for allowing me the honor of writing a twice-weekly column. The newspaper is in steady hands with him at the helm.

But most of all, I’d like to tell the readers how much I appreciated their feedback. It always felt like I was having a conversation with you, instead of a monologue to an empty room. Thank you.

Now it’s time for me to shift gears. I’ve lived in Costa Mesa for more than two decades and have a deep love for the city.

My adopted hometown is facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis — and suffering from the controversies that spill from it. Open, honest and timely communications from the city is critical at this time.

City Chief Executive Tom Hatch has promised me wide latitude in getting out news and information. Among other things, I envision a newsy website that’s also filled with accessible public documents, an increased social media presence, and a series of neighborhood town hall meetings. My goal is to make Costa Mesa the most transparent city in the nation so the public can see how its business is being conducted.

I know this won’t be easy and will take some time. Because of mounting budget problems, governments across the nation are entering uncharted territory. California, for instance, is sending notices of potential layoffs to an estimated 19,000 teachers. This is a new normal, where only difficult choices are offered.

I’m encouraged that Costa Mesa would hire an independent voice to help better its voice. It shows it’s serious about truly communicating with its residents and employees.

And, since so many are asking, my contract pays $75 an hour and is not to exceed 40 hours a week.

Well, it’s time for me to head to City Hall.

Thanks again, Pilot readers. I’ll be in touch.

WILLIAM LOBDELL — a former editor of the Daily Pilot and Los Angeles Times journalist — is the acting communications director for the City of Costa Mesa. His e-mail is