Pacific Beach Town Council installs 2021 board and officers, honors volunteers

Ellen Citrano was the inspiration for a new Town Council honor: the Ellen Citrano Caring and Compassion Award.
Ellen Citrano, a Pacific Beach Town Council member and retired Navy nurse, was the inspiration for a new honor at the Jan. 20 Town Council meeting: the Ellen Citrano Caring and Compassion Award.
(Courtesy Ellen Citrano )

Denied the usual affair at the Mission Bay Yacht Club by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Pacific Beach Town Council conducted its annual induction of new officers and board of directors virtually during the course of its regular Jan. 20 meeting.

The event also celebrated the contributions of individual PBTC members through their volunteer work with a host of awards, a number of them new this year, honoring their dedication and unsung efforts.

Despite the lack of personal contact offered by a physical gathering or perhaps because of it, this year’s ceremony delivered emotional wallops as award winners and their presenters frequently burst into tears during their speeches, which lent any humor that was employed extra bite.

“I will say that I’m highly disappointed that we’re not all together at the venue because I have this amazing ball gown that I wanted to wear tonight,” said Caryn Blanton, recipient of the new Ellen Citrano Caring and Compassion Award. “Instead, I have on my jeans and T-shirt.”

Before administering the oath of office to the 12 PBTC board of directors and four officers, freshman local Assembly member Chris Ward, of the 78th District, noted the timeliness of the occasion with the inauguration of the new U.S. president and vice president earlier in the day.

“We started out this morning with a special oath for our national leaders and we get to close out our day with some of the most important leaders that we have, our community leaders in Pacific Beach” Ward said.

Marcella Bothwell was installed as the new president of the Pacific Beach Town Council at its virtual meeting Jan. 20.
Marcella Bothwell was installed as the new president of the Pacific Beach Town Council at its virtual meeting Jan. 20.
(Courtesy Marcella Bothwell )

The new PBTC officers are president Marcella Bothwell, vice president Karl Rand, secretary Susan Crowers and treasurer Denise Friedman. Board members include Brian White, Brian Curry, Greg Daunoras, Jane Nobbs, Ron Walker, Brianna Jackson, Cathie Jolley, Tony Schlegel, Ellen Citrano, Charlie Nieto, Michael Herndon and Kim Short.

The highlight of the evening was the introduction of the Caring and Compassion Award named after Citrano, a retired Navy nurse.

Citrano, who is awaiting a heart transplant, was visibly moved and surprised when three friends appeared and provided a portrait of their neighbor or former Navy colleague.

Nancy Owen, who first met Citrano at Balboa Naval Medical Center in 1982, brought some tears to the virtual audience as she recounted several instances of Citrano’s devotion and sacrifices to patients and others less fortunate.

“It’s very difficult to say ‘No’ to Ellen,” Owen said. “If she has something going, if an idea comes up, she runs with it. I think one of our other colleagues kind of summed up things on Facebook. She said that you (Citrano) wore your original heart out by giving and helping others. Now you need a new one.”

Camilla Bickwell presented a lighter picture of Citrano through their 25 years of adventures in the Navy since 1977, while Leslie Thorp portrayed a compassionate neighbor and friend of 25 years who never flinched at doing favors Thorp couldn’t return.

Amie Zamudio, who co-chairs the Shoreline Community Service organization that helps the homeless with award winner Blanton, described how Citrano literally pulled off the tights she was wearing recently to hand to a homeless man.

“This man said to me two nights ago, ‘Well Amie, it’s been a long time since I felt love,’” said a sobbing Zamudio.

Blanton, selected for the award by Citrano herself, also founded the PB Street Guardians.

She expressed her commitment to continue on the trail blazed by Citrano but exhorted the audience to join her in the work that benefits the community itself.

“If I don’t live up to this, I’m authorizing everyone to call me out that I’m not being caring and compassionate,” Blanton said. “This is not the Caryn Blanton Show. This is our community and I’m continually trying to call all of you into engaging and working together to solve the challenges that we have. We can do it together. That is what I want to do.”

Former PBTC president and board member Eve Anderson was given the Pug Sanford Community Service Award for her lifelong work on the PBTC as well as the PB Planning Group. In accepting the award, Anderson recalled a smaller PBTC basically run by four couples when she joined in 1974.

“All eight of them lived to be in their late 80s or 90s,” Anderson said. “So volunteering is good for you...They were all good, happy, productive people So keep volunteering. There is no age limit.”

Elvin Lai, owner and operator of the Ocean Park Inn Hotel and board member of numerous tourism-related agencies including the San Diego Tourism Authority and California Hotel and Lodging Association, was named Honorary Mayor of Pacific Beach.

Other award winners include Charlie Nieto, Rising Star Award; Brianna Jackson, Communications Award; Ron Walker, Membership Award; Jane Nobbs, Rose Creek Cottage Stewardship Award; Susan Crowers, Green Thumb Award and Excellence of Record Keeping Award; and Marcella Bothwell, Excellence in Financial Management Award.

Taking over the helm in the midst of social, economic and public health upheavals unprecedented in living memory, new PBTC president Bothwell said her priority is to continue ongoing programs that include enhancement projects such as the Grand Avenue medians, support for first responders, clean and safe beaches, and “Shop Local,” not only for the benefits but to also provide some stability during turbulent times.

“This is the 70th year of the PBTC and that conveys a sense of resiliency which I think the community needs,” Bothwell said. “While I have said before that I appreciate technology including ZOOM and social media, it seems to have brought out our worst elements as well. It seems easier to say mean things when not speaking face to face.

“I am hoping that when the vaccine promotes herd immunity, we will have in-person meetings again and a modicum of civility will return,” she said. “Our community needs to hug one another again.”