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Opinion: The most applaudable thing Jim Watkins ever built

By Jim Donovan/Del Mar

This is to commend the Del Mar Times and reporter Arthur Lightbourn for his in-depth story (Dec. 9) on the “five-decade career of the local developer” who “has built it all.” Who could only be Jim Watkins, the man who in my far-from-alone opinion has done more for Del Mar than any other person, living or dead.

His achievements have been major contributions to what Del Mar is today, to the benefit of residents as well as visitors, as has been chronicled in the local media for 40 years. What is unprecedented about Lightbourn’s interview is that it surfaced and put into focus the motivation and philosophy that inspired his future long before he built anything, and that formed the principles he has adhered to ever since.

It was that side of Jim Watkins that Lightbourn captured, by letting him tell in his own words how and why he came to Del Mar in 1968, which revealed more about the man than all of the stories about his latest property achievement combined.

I therefore submit that the most applaudable thing he ever built is not the L’Auberge hotel but the reputation that he built for himself, the one that he himself never sought to build because it derives from the person that he is within.

I created advertising for several developers and builders in Los Angeles, including Mark Taper who had to be admired for what he built. I therefore feel qualified to say that there is a huge difference between reputations based on financial magnitude and the more personal and intangible one that Jim Watkins built, which speaks louder and more clearly than anything he or anyone else in these parts has built on terra firma.

As the interview made clear, the foundation for all of his achievements has been his individuality and the principles that have been his unwavering guide to the living of his life, particularly from the day he learned the hard way that attitude is everything.

As his next-door neighbor and a beneficiary of his presence on the board of our home owners association, Jim Watkins is one of the major blessings that have been bestowed upon me as a Del Martian. I therefore had to say what I have here, every word of which is as real and sincere as the man himself.


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