NORWALK — Retiring county Supervisor Don Knabe brought his good-bye tour to Norwalk Aug. 16, thanking city officials and residents for working with him and supporting him since his election in 1994, and in return received accolades and gifts for his service and funding for community projects.
Some gifts from the eight school and community organizations were checks for Safe Surrender, the program he founded in 2001 to encourage new mothers not to abandon newly born infants.
One of those infants, Karalyn Winters, now 8, presented Knabe with a white rose. She was there with her adopted parents, Willene and Gregg Winters, of Norwalk.
The program allows a parent or guardian unable to care for a newborn to turn the baby over to a county fire station, police station or hospital with the theme “no blame, no shame” if the infant is in good physical condition.
A choked up Knabe, with a tissue borrowed from City Manager Mike Egan, said the ones to be thanked are the 146 mothers who have had the courage to do the right thing for their babies.
Then his sense of humor returned as he recalled experiences in Norwalk.
“Norwalk will always have a special place in my heart,” Knabe said. “I remember a talk before the Chamber of Commerce. I received a pair of Superman underwear and toilet paper from a plumber.
“This city has never been shy. It was a great working relationship and partnership. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Knabe was accompanied by his wife of 48 years, Julie, and said he had about six to eight more cities to visit before November.
“The problem is most councils meet on Tuesday nights,” he said.
“Your dedication to the community has been an important part of our experience,” said Mayor Mike Mendez, noting Knabe’s efforts and funding for transportation, parks and senior citizen programs.
Mendez acknowledged Knabe’s help on a $13 million makeover of the city’s municipal nine-hole golf course on Shoemaker Avenue.
“There will be a double-decker driving range and a new clubhouse,” Mendez said.
Plans are to complete the makeover by November, a city parks spokesperson said.
Once completed, a portrait of Knabe, done by local artist Javier Flores and unveiled Aug. 16, will hang in the lobby.
“[Knabe] has always set the example of a [model] public servant,” Vice Mayor Cheri Kelley said, noting that he helped fund 15,000 summer youth jobs over the years. “I don’t know how anyone will ever be able to fill your shoes.”
Elected to the Cerritos City Council in 1980, Knabe later served as chief aide to then county Supervisor Deane Dana before his election to the post in 1994.
His chief of staff, Steve Napolitano, seeks to follow in Knabe’s shoes and is running against Rep. Janice Hahn, D-San Pedro, for the post Nov. 8.