Junior lifeguard community seeks former director's return

The Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard's 50th anniversary is drawing near and the group is trying to bring back what they consider an essential part of it to make their celebration complete.

Dave Simcox, the former director of the junior lifeguard program, asked council members Tuesday night to reinstate him up until August to be part of the anniversary celebration and aid with an exchange group coming to Huntington Beach this summer.

But council members said there is nothing they can do and that their "hands are tied."

"The City Council is prohibited by our charter from involving ourselves in the hiring of anyone," Mayor Connie Boardman said. "It's in the charter…to prevent council members from trying to influence staff to hire their buddies or fire people that aren't friendly to them. This body, as a council or individuals, cannot influence hiring decisions."

At least 80 people were inside the council chambers to support Simcox's effort to rejoin the junior lifeguards.

"Under the guidance of Dave Simcox, I have learned basic lifesaving skills, self-confidence and saw an increased level of physical strength," said Trevor Powley, 16, a member of the junior lifeguards. "The training of Huntington Beach not only helps the children understand the dangers associated with the marine environment, but helps make them efficient in the ocean."

Powley, who was one of 28 teenagers in the program to travel to New Zealand over the winter with Simcox and other staff members, asked council members to give Simcox one last opportunity to be with the junior lifeguards.

"It is only right and fair that Mr. Simcox remain until the end of program's 50th session in August since he's made a large, positive contribution, through the highs and lows and building the program to the prestige and position it now commands," Powley said.

It is because of AB 1028, a law that prohibits state agencies from rehiring retired persons, that prevents Simcox from rejoining the junior lifeguard program.

"We would like nothing more than to have Dave stick around for the 50th anniversary. He's absolutely earned it," City Manager Fred Wilson said. "Our challenge is that state law has now changed to when someone retires from the city, we can't hire them back as a paid city employee. Our hands are completely tied there."

Council members were approached with this issue initially at the Feb. 4 meeting and have been seeking a resolution since then.

"We've looked at this from every angle and talked to our city attorney," Wilson said. "We've tried to find a way to accommodate Dave in his request. We can do it, but we can't do it as a paid city employee. He can do it in some other capacity, possibly as a volunteer or possibly working for the Friends of the Junior Lifeguard program. But as a paid, part-time employee, we simply can't do it because of state law."

Simcox almost missed his opportunity to be part of the junior lifeguard program when the city was only looking to hire 10 members. He was 11th on the list.

But one of the new hires broke their leg after jumping off the pier, thus giving Simcox his chance.

"It's your bad because I stayed here for 49 years," Simcox joked to council members, followed by a laugh from the audience.

With more than 1,000 signed petitions in hand and almost 100 people supporting him, he hopes the city can find a way for him to be with the program for one last time.

"The city of Huntington Beach Junior Lifeguard program is a treasure," Simcox said. "I hope that you guys take care of it for years to come."


Twitter: @acocarpio

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