Borrego Sun - Since 1949

By Mike McElhatton
Director of ABDNHA Educational Programs 

Jim Wilson Day


Last updated 7/18/2023 at 11:55am

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors recognized Jim Wilson for 69 years of outstanding service, leadership and commitment to uplifting the lives of the Borrego Springs community and proclaimed May 16 as, "Jim Wilson Day" throughout San Diego County.

The proclamation highlighted his contribution to the betterment of the entire community of Borrego Springs and highlights the many positions he withheld over the years. Committed to recognizing and honoring individuals that are noteworthy and explementary, the County Board of Supervisors knew Jim Wilson was the individual to be honored. It states Jim Wilson as a, "'can do' person, energetic, experienced and his wisdom and sense of humor create a great environment to work."

As Anza-Borrego Desert Natural History Association (ABDNHA) Board Chairman Jim Wilson and his wife, Lorraine, get ready to move from Borrego Springs to their new home in the Coachella Valley, we wish them well and thank Jim for all he's done for ABDNHA and the Borrego Springs community. During the 20 years that they lived here, Jim's work with many organizations has spread across the entire community, and both residents and visitors will benefit for years to come.

Jim and Lorraine first came to Borrego Springs in the early 1970s, driving from their home in San Diego for three-day camping weekends in their motorhome, often setting up in Blair Valley, their favorite spot. From the days of those first visits, they followed a pathway that has been followed by many others when they are drawn to our tiny community in the California desert. In 2000, the motorhome became a home in the RoadRunner Club, and in 2005, that home and their home in San Diego were both sold and replaced with a newly constructed home in the new section of the RoadRunner Club.

If you ask Jim what he likes most about Borrego Springs, he will first mention the beauty and the peacefulness of the surrounding desert. But beyond that, it might sound like he's talking about himself when he says, "The more time you spend here, the more you realize the uniqueness of this place because of the people who live here. There are so many experienced, talented people here, people who have had impressive careers, run companies, done things in all kinds of different fields, people who will jump right in with those skills to do whatever needs to be done."

Jim's own career was as an engineer in aerospace design and manufacture. He first worked for Boeing in Seattle and Wichita and then moved to SoCal where he worked 32 years for Rohr, eventually as Vice President for quality assurance.

He tells the tale of a favorite project, when he was head of a design team charged with doing things that had never been done before in any airplane, when the engines required for the DC 10 made far too much noise and presented all sorts of other technical problems. Whatever solutions his team made, they all needed to fit inside the confines of that engine. They did it. And it was a job that still gives him a great feeling of accomplishment.

Jim retired from all that back in 1989, and when he looked out into the future, he firmly believed that if a person does not do something to keep their mind going, their mind will go stale. And besides that, he says, it's fun to work with others to get things done. Jim has been living his retirement according to his own principles until this day.

His involvement with ABDNHA started when a good friend on the ABDNHA board, John Drum, suggested he see Executive Director Betsy Knaak about taking a place on the board. That was 10 years ago, and he has been on the board ever since, serving the past eight years as board chair.

When he started, he says he was impressed with all the things that ABDNHA was doing with programs, membership, management, and the nature center, but he saw needs in another area. ABDNHA had recently purchased the historic Plaza building it had been renting for its operations, and it was in very poor condition, with neglected maintenance by the previous owners to be found in every corner of it. So, Jim decided to fix it. Now, 10 years later, as he looks back on all that has been accomplished with help of talented volunteers, he is proud of the transformation that has taken place.

At one point in time, he was asked to join the board of Christmas Circle Community Park, soon becoming the board chair, a job he has done for 15 years. He says the job is a mix of fundraising and always making sure that things are well maintained for the many residents and visitors who use it. His involvement with other organizations over the years has included: Chamber of Commerce Honorary Mayor; the Borrego Valley Endowment Fund, 15 years, including secretary and vice president; the Borrego Springs Community United Methodist Church Board of Trustees, president, 15 years; the Borrego Water District, Water Coalition and Advisory Committee, eight years; and the Road Runner Club Association, board of directors and president, for four years.

Looking to the future, Jim says he likes where ABDNHA is headed as the organization reaches out with technology, with more and more people hearing about the organization and getting involved. He sees a bright future as that continues to grow and get stronger. And he is not too worried that Borrego Springs will lose its unique small-town charm. "Borrego Springs is going to see some growth," he says, "but there is a combination of factors that will make growth come slowly."

Thank you, Jim, for all you have done for Borrego Springs. You will be missed.

Published by ABDNHA in the 2023 summer edition of "The Sand Paper" newsletter. Used with permission.

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