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The man behind the numbers

The Daily Pilot speaks with Newport-Mesa Unified's chief business official about his life, his education and the budgets of the state, district.

November 19, 2010|By Tom Ragan, tom.ragan@latimes.com
  • Paul Reed is the Newport Mesa Unified School District's chief business official.
Paul Reed is the Newport Mesa Unified School District's… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Meet Paul Reed. He's Newport-Mesa Unified's chief business official and deputy superintendent of finance. The state's financial troubles have trickled down, causing a $13.5-million hole in the district's budget this year. It led to tough decisions and the subsequent layoffs of more than 100 teachers in the district. Many of them have since been hired back. Reed, 63, is always at the forefront of the bad news. Still, district colleagues say they don't know what they would do without Reed, a financial guru who likes to play it tough but reportedly has a soft heart. Still, he can't seem to shake those nicknames — "Dr. No" and "The Great Barrier Reed."

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Forget about numbers and math for a minute. Where were you born?

I was born in a clinic on Catalina Island, which had no true hospital at the time.

A clinic? Really?

Yes, it was a private clinic run by the town's only doctor. It was actually the former summer home of Gen. George S. Patton's parents, and it was about a block from the beach. But the Patton family no longer owned it. This doctor owned it, and that's where I was born. Today, there are other buildings on the site, like a library and a jail. I always tell my mom that I was born where the library is today, but she assures me it was the jail.

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What was it like growing up on Catalina Island? Did you venture off the island often? And how did you have fun as a teenager?

In the '50s and '60s, when I was growing up, the island had a very seasonal economy based on tourism and the Great White Steamer, which only ran from May to mid-September. So for four months or so out of the year, everyone went to work. I started working summers when I was 12. I worked in a souvenir shop, selling stuff that doesn't exist today: film. I remember I made a $1.25 an hour, about $10 a day. I still have the Social Security statements that show I made $600. That was a lot back then, but you worked a lot. The deal with Catalina is you had to make it through the winter. There were very few jobs in the winter. Back then, we were a sleepy little town of about 2,000 people, where everyone knew everyone. We could have been a small town in Nebraska, except we had the ocean in our front yard.

What did your parents do?

My family ran a restaurant and bar, the Village, on Crescent Street from the 1930s to the mid-1970s.

Where did you go to high school?

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