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Former Ventura city manager dies

Former Ventura City Manager Ed McCombs, who was instrumental in saving the building that is now City Hall, died June 28. He was 90 years old.

McCombs served the city from 1970 to 1981. The former city manager championed a grant to purchase and remodel the old Ventura County Courthouse at 501 Poli St. and make it the city’s headquarters. City Hall is now a state historic landmark and listed on the National Register for Historic Places.

“That was one of his greatest accomplishments,” said Don Greenberg, a former Ventura city attorney who worked with McCombs.

The county courthouse, originally built in 1912, stood vacant for months after it was declared unsafe, according to an October 18, 1970, article in the Ventura County Star.

“The building was empty and boarded up,” Greenberg said.

McCombs asked the City Council to apply for a grant to save the building and convert it into a city hall, Greenberg said. The city received the grant.

“Ventura City Hall is one of the most beautiful in the state of California,” he said.

According to the city’s website, the building opened for municipal use in 1974. The renovation and restoration cost $3.2 million. McCombs told the Star at the time that he never regretted the expenditure.

“People enjoy working here every day,” McCombs said in a June 1981 article. “People are constantly bringing visitors and taking pictures.”

According to his family and his obituary, McCombs began his government career in Yuba City at age 22. When he became city manager for Ventura, he was 36, according to an article in the April 19, 1970, issue of the Star.

Miriam Mack worked as an administrative assistant for McCombs starting in 1974. He worked hard to build a team in the city, she said.

“Even when I did something wrong, he was always very kind in correcting me,” Mack said. “I felt like everyone wanted to do their best and support him and his mission to help the city.”

McCombs resigned from his position as city manager on June 15, 1981, to take a job in Nigeria. He and his wife, Nell, were working on a project for the Nigerian government to make the country more self-sufficient in agriculture, according to a Star article at the time.

“It was a big surprise for me,” daughter Kathy McCombs Morgan said of the move. “It probably shouldn’t have been, because my parents really enjoyed exploring new places, trying new things and having new experiences.”

McCombs, who enjoyed traveling, became a Peace Corps administrator in 1967 and had moved with his family to Sarawak, Malaysia, before the Ventura appearance.

Despite moving to Nigeria, McCombs and his wife kept their home in Ventura, she said.

“They made a lot of friends here. They loved the climate and the opportunities and it’s a great place,” Morgan said.

He returned to the area and became general manager of the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District from 1986 to 1992 and served as commissioner of the Ventura Port District from 2002 to 2012, Greenberg said.

McCombs was a kind, gentle person who respected others and tried to prevent problems before they arose, Morgan said.

“I don’t remember ever hearing him swear until I was an adult,” she said. “He was just a real gentleman.”

McCombs and his wife had a “lifelong love” and built a stable family that provided Morgan and her sisters with numerous opportunities, including living and traveling abroad, she said.

His wife, Nell, died in 2018 at age 85, Morgan said. Besides her, he leaves behind daughters Linda Young and Allison Maires.

A service will be held on August 18 at 2:00 p.m. at the Poinsettia Pavilion, 3451 Foothill Road, Ventura.

Wes Woods II covers West County for the Ventura County Star. Reach him at [email protected], 805-437-0262 or @JournoWes.