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By Fred Swegles
Services were held Jan. 13 for George Caravalho, who served as San Clemente’s city manager from 1980 to 1984, an eventful period in the town’s evolution.
News reports out of Santa Clarita, where Caravalho was recognized as the first permanent city manager following incorporation and had a sports complex named for him, said that he died at age 81 on Jan. 5 in Santa Cruz.
Caravalho came to San Clemente on Jan. 21, 1980, from San Mateo, where he was deputy city manager. He had held prior management positions for the cities of Seattle and Milpitas, newspaper archives state.
San Clemente City Council selected him from a field of more than 100 candidates to succeed City Manager Jerry Weeks, who had resigned in 1979, citing intense San Clemente political turmoil, to take a job in the private sector.
During Caravalho’s tenure, the city enacted a future vision known as Plan 2000, a strict, controversial ordinance to reduce sign clutter and implementation of measures to limit hillside grading and development. The city adopted what were said to be the nation’s most comprehensive fire-prevention laws. The city established a long-term concession on the San Clemente Pier, the Fisherman’s Restaurant, which became a catalyst for revitalization of the Pier Bowl area.
The city also dealt with massive 1983 storm damage that included destruction of most of the iconic pier. Caravalho worked with the city council, local residents and public agencies to assemble funding to rebuild the pier.
Caravalho was credited with helping navigate San Clemente through turbulent political times fueled by fierce debates over impending development of the beach town’s hilly backcountry. The city was sued by developers over restrictions and restraints, while rivaling local factions mounted voter initiatives and bitter back-and-forth recall campaigns.
“Perhaps his greatest accomplishment,” the Daily Sun-Post wrote of Caravalho in 1984, “has been the restoration of a highly professional City Hall staff whose department heads and employees have brought a strong measure of stability to the administration of city services. That has not always been the case. For a time, the city was wracked with recall elections and a revolving door among the City Hall staff.”
In July 1984, Caravalho accepted a job offer from Bakersfield to lead a city more than four times San Clemente’s size. From there, he went to the newly incorporated city of Santa Clarita, becoming its first permanent city manager, serving from 1988 to 2002.
As the website scvhistory.com relates, Caravalho helped shape Santa Clarita’s cityhood. In 1998, the city said thanks by naming the George A. Caravalho Santa Clarita Sports Complex.
Caravalho was Riverside’s city manager from 2002-2005 and was director of Orange County’s Dana Point Harbor Department from 2005-2007. His scvhistory.com biography lists him as retiring in 2008.
He returned briefly to public life in San Clemente before moving to his final residence, Santa Cruz. In San Clemente, he was appointed in 2010 to a short one-year term on the Planning Commission, and he was president of the Friends of San Clemente Foundation in 2011.