Get to know our City Commissioners – Don Maclay

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He may be 90, but friends like City Councilmember Paul Grisanti and humor columnist Burt Ross say Don Maclay is still sharp as a tack. Maclay just retired in 2018, well into his 80s, and lamented on Linked-In that he “hates retirement so far” and still seeks small engineering projects and consulting work. 

“The thing I miss most is the camaraderie involved in working,” he said.

Grisanti just appointed Maclay as Public Works Commissioner on Feb. 13, and he’s attended two meetings so far. He was officially welcomed at the March meeting, and his term goes until January 2025. 

For those who need a refresher on what the Public Works Commission does, it make recommendations to City Council regarding capital projects, including roads and piers, management of solid waste, transportation, congestion, stormwater, landslide abatement, public utilities, and telecommunications.

“The main thing I’d like to see with respect to Malibu Public Works is to figure out what outsiders are planning to do before they do it,” Maclay said in a phone interview. “I think we could have influenced, for example, the $6 million construction project at the Pt. Dume headlands (with a brand new stairway to the beach) that already is a catastrophe for Malibu … State Parks has now created a huge demand for a nearly inaccessible beach with only eight parking spaces and no restroom facilities; and ignored promises to station a full-time ranger there.”

Maclay said he may have tried to steer the state to creating a path accessible to people parking on Westward Beach Road, which would allow them to walk through Big Dume Beach over to Little Dume Beach, even if only at low tide. 

Otherwise, Maclay said he’s interested in the dewatering project going on at Big Rock, as well as “whatever construction project is going on” in town. 

“There are a lot of projects pending,” he noted. “There are a lot of projects being done by other agencies, and the city needs to track those better.” 

In addition, he said there’s some talk about building a bridge near Spruzzo’s restaurant and deleting an open area there, which he wants to look at more closely. 

“It would be a disaster if it ends up blocking another road into Point Dume,” he said. 

“[Public Works Director / City Engineer] Rob DuBoux has promised to help out by creating and maintaining a listing of projects that are in the planning stages by the state and county — at least that’s what I thought he said at our last meeting,” Maclay continued.

Maclay earned a B.S. and M.S. in mechanical engineering from the Ivy League school Cornell University, and later attended the Stanford University Executive Program. He served in the U.S. Navy on a destroyer out of Newport, Rhode Island, and was discharged at the rank of lieutenant. He has decades of high-level engineering experience under his belt.

He started off as a plant manager for Warren Wire Co./General Cable Corp. at a Teflon-insulating facility in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara. Maclay then went on to become a partner at Booz Allen & Hamilton, a top-level management and consulting company, with clients that included QANTAS Airline, Flying Tiger Lines, Bechtel Corp., and 40 to 50 other companies. He later formed his own company, Tel-Max Telecommunication, that installed computer and phone networks, including the first one at the old Malibu City Hall (now torn down). The company completed over 5,000 projects.

Don first came to California in the early 1960s, has lived in Malibu since the mid-’60s, and has been active in Malibu politics both before and after cityhood. Over the years, he was co-chair of a Santa Monica-Malibu School District education committee, was involved with city building codes and permits, and a member of the Point Dume Community Association, Inc.