Remembering William Woollett Jr., Irvine’s first city manager

The community of Irvine paused recently to reflect on the legacy of William Woollett Jr., who passed away on Nov. 6. The native Southern Californian and decorated Korean War veteran became the city’s first full-time employee in 1972, when he was hired as city manager.

Woollett’s list of achievements helped shape Irvine. He was at the helm when the city’s nationally acclaimed park system was established, and he oversaw the passage of the 1988 Open Space Agreement that led to the preservation of land throughout Irvine.

Woollett also oversaw the creation of the Irvine Police Department, today a model agency that has helped the city become the safest of its size for 14 consecutive years.

“The biggest and most important thing to me,” he once said, “is that the city has followed the Master Plan. The villages, the shopping centers, the parks — everything the plan called for.”

Woollett was instrumental in building the city’s aquatics complex, which hosted a portion of the 1984 Summer Olympics. In 2004, the site was renamed in his honor.

Woollett served the city for 17 years before moving on to become CEO of the Transportation Corridor Agencies. Even after he left his post at the city, Woollett was a staple at city events and meetings, maintaining a keen interest in the future of the city he called home.