Community service isn’t what it used to be. You sign up for a city committee these days and you’re met with brickbats and backhands, critiques and criticism, not to mention marathon meetings. Sometimes you deserve the criticism, sometimes you don’t.
Nevertheless, despite the political cacophony that scores modern Costa Mesa, good people still serve their cities for the right reasons, and David Stiller was, by all accounts, one of them. The fact that so many people on both sides of a polarized place praised his approach to public service tells us everything we need to know.
He was remembered as smart, articulate and thoughtful. He wasn’t a kitten, either, friends of his say. He carefully developed opinions and then held the line to challenges. But it wasn’t about ego with Stiller, we’re told, it was about what he thought was best for the city.
“He had a very acute sense of justice,” his son, Eric, told the Pilot. “And a very curious, probing mind.”
Stiller died March 9 of natural causes, and the outpouring from the community hasn’t stopped. Before his life ended at age 78, he served on the Parks and Recreation and Transportation commissions, Finance Advisory and Fairview Park Citizens Advisory committees and the Costa Mesa Senior Center board of directors. He also served his country as a commissioned naval officer and then, in civilian life, worked in the insurance industry.
He was what you might call a man of character. And though he’s gone, those who pick up the mantle of public service would be wise to follow his example, one of careful, reasoned and thoughtful discourse.