“Well, it was quite rural,” laughed his wife, Shirls. “There was very little housing in Brentwood, so we drove down Highway 4, found Discovery Bay and there we stayed. We were very happy here.”
Gill passed away on Oct. 15 following a long illness. He was 84.
Born in 1927, Gill grew up in Southern California and attended Hollywood High School. He received a master’s degree in public administration from UCLA and managed three California cities – Tustin, Longdale and National City – before coming to Brentwood.
The popular city manager and retired U.S. Army colonel saw Brentwood through plenty of growing pains during his tenure from 1980 to ’88 and played a vital role in the formation of the Downtown Redevelopment Agency and the development of the Dimes a Ride program.
“When Harry was here, Brentwood was a mess,” said Barbara Guise, former Brentwood mayor and longtime friend of the Gill family. “We had trucks barreling through town and there was black soot and potholes everywhere. Harry solved all those problems and put the city on the right course. I think he did a marvelous job.”
But it was his strong yet gentle touch as city manager that remains one of his lasting gifts. “The big thing about Harry was that his staff just loved him,” said Guise. “He had this wonderful managerial style. He would invite staff over to his house for parties, but he also knew how to handle the council when they got out of hand.
“He knew how to deal with people. He would walk the downtown and talk to people on the street and listen to what they had to say. He was a real people person.”
Married for 60 years, Shirls – who met her husband at a church gathering in Southern California – credits the success of their marriage to a number of things, including a devotion to one another and a commitment to their vows.
“When you find someone you love who’s a good man and a good provider, then you stay with him,” said Shirls. “I think sometimes today marriage isn’t taken as seriously as it should be. We loved each other and stayed together and had a wonderful life together.”
A dedicated family man, Gill also had a passion for traveling and collecting cars. “We loved to travel,” said Shirls. “And he also loved old cars. Those were his main hobbies – aside from his family.
“Harry was a caring, honest man; he was a really good guy. If he didn’t believe something was correct, he would say so. His career was spotless because he believed in doing the right thing, and in today’s world that’s sometimes a rare thing. He was a wonderful man.”
Gill leaves behind Shirls, daughter Christina Castillo, son-in-law René and grandson Gabriel. A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, Nov. 26 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Gills’ home in Discovery Bay. All are welcome.