When Don Eaton learned he was named San Carlos’ Citizen of the Year, he had one thought.
"I asked if they were scraping the bottom of the barrel,” he joked.
But according to the selection committee, Eaton was nowhere but at the top for the 2012 honor. The Chamber of Commerce, which along with the city, awards the annual honor recognizing a person who has given back to the city of San Carlos beyond the scope of their job. The service must be volunteer and include humanitarianism, charity or heroic deeds.
Eaton fit the bill, said chamber CEO Dave Bouchard.
"It was surprising to most folks when Don’s name was mentioned that he hadn’t won yet,” Bouchard said.
Eaton says he was surprised he won at all.
"I probably didn’t deserve it,” he said. "I’m very humbled and just felt really nice about the whole thing.”
Eaton, a 30-plus year resident and retired mortgage broker, is the former mayor of San Carlos but his community resume extends beyond his long tenure on the City Council which ended in 2005. He brought the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to the city in 2000 and began the tradition of honoring Eagle Scouts at council meetings, having been an Eagle Scout himself.
Eaton was also involved in other community projects like passing Measure D for the Holly Street grade separation, the Harbor Industrial Area annexation, the SCOOT shuttle program, the Industrial Road improvements, building the Elms and launching Hot Harvest Nights. City initiatives, though, he credits to the teamwork of the City Council rather than just his own involvement.
Eaton remains a community force, serving on the Hiller Aviation Museum board, Bay Area Council Economic Institute and the County Civil Service Commission.
Looking at the grand sum of Eaton’s past and current contributions, Bouchard said the recognition is more like a lifetime achievement award than for any one or two deeds.
Although Eaton is proud of all his accomplishments, he has a special fondness for the Week of the Family which after 14 years is now a citywide tradition — a night of no homework, lectures, activities and the infamous roshambo contest. Eaton calls himself the "godfather” of the event which he measures not in bodies participating but in the spirit of the community.
"I consider myself very privileged to have been in the right spot at the right time and opportunity to do some good,” he said.
Eaton will be formally recognized as Citizen of the Year at a Jan. 22 gala hosted by the Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are available on the Chamber of Commerce website at www.sancarloschamber.org.
Michelle Durand can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.