After 23 Years As Montclair Mayor and Total Of Nearly 30 Years On City Council, Eaton Departs

Montclair Mayor Paul Eaton yesterday left office, a little less than two years short of having served as Montclair mayor for a quarter of a century and after being in place as a member of the city council for 29-and-a-half years. The 82-year-old’s retirement was prompted by health considerations.
Eaton moved to Montclair with his wife Ginger in 1965, and it was there that they raised their family, consisting of four children, two boys and two girls.
When he arrived in the 5.52-square mile city, it was not much different than it had been at the time of the city’s 1956 founding. Orange groves were still a major feature of the landscape, and many of the city’s founders, such as the city’s first mayor, James West, himself an orange grower, was still active, in West’s case, running the pest control company that had evolved from his orange cultivation business. At that point, Montclair was maturing, evolving toward what many thought would be a mostly bedroom community just beyond the easternmost extension of Los Angeles County.
Eaton’s first major involvement in the community was through his church, Bethany Baptist, located at 9950 Monte Vista Avenue, and as a volunteer with his wife in the extracurricular programs in the Ontario-Montclair School District and later the Chaffey High School District schools where their children were students. As the decade progressed, Eaton witnessed the construction of that element of Montclair that would come to define it for most outsiders, the $50 million Montclair Plaza, developed by Ernest Hahn, and which opened on November 5, 1968, just in time for that year’s Christmas shopping season, anchored by J. C. Penney, The Broadway, and May Co.
In 1970, Eaton joined the Montclair Community Action Committee, beginning his slide into politics. In 1974, he was appointed to the city’s planning commission, where he served 14 years. In 1988 he was elected to the city council. Seven years later, following a minor scandal bedeviling the then-mayor, he was elevated to take the departing mayor’s place. Eaton completed three years of that term and then went on to be elected/reelected to five more four-year terms.
In the course of his time on the city council, Eaton has served on the city’s internal Personnel, Real Estate, Public Works, Traffic, and Planning Commission Interview committees, and as the city’s representative on a smorgasbord of adjunct governmental agencies, joint powers authorities, commissions and committees. Among those have been the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority (SBCTA) Board of Directors, the San Bernardino County Association of Governments (SANBAG) Board of Directors, the Gold Line Phase II Joint Powers Authority Board, the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (Metrolink) Board, the SBCTA Commuter Rail Committee, the SBCTA Major Projects Committee, the SBCTA General Policy Committee, the SBCTA Metro Valley Study Session Committee, the Omnitrans Board of Directors, the Omnitrans Administrative and Finance Committee, the Inland Empire Utility Agency Regional Sewerage Program Policy Committee, the National League of Cities Delegation, League of California Cities Delegation, and the General Assembly of the Southern California Association of Governments.
Eaton counts as his accomplishment guiding the completion of a new police facility, a youth and senior center, road improvements throughout the city, securing future Gold Line light rail service to the Montclair Transcenter; and the development of the North Montclair Downtown Specific Plan.
Eaton suffered a heart attack last year, which sidelined him for a while. Because of his health struggles, Eaton has not been in attendance at any city council meetings since March 5.

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