An architect who helped shape Orinda’s roads and downtown, a botanist who keeps locals creeks clean, the man behind the voice at local events and a soon-to-be 90-year-old longtime community organizer are receiving special recognition in March.
The Orinda Community Foundation (OCF) and The Orinda Association (OA) named Pete Hasseleman the 2019 Citizen of the Year and Barbara M. Leitner as the winner of the William Penn Mott Jr. Environmental Award. Joe Haughin and Bill Cosden will be recognized as 2019 Orinda Volunteers.
The four will be fêted at a dinner March 22 at the Orinda Country Club. (For more about the selection process, see the President’s Message on page 3). Tickets, which include dinner, are $80 per person and can be purchased at OrindaAssociation.org.
Citizen of the Year
Hasselman, a world-renowned architect, is a long-time Orinda resident.
“Pete has been an outstanding Orinda volunteer and contributor to our community for a number of years,” said Orinda Community Foundation Board Member Sue Severson. “He is a driver for Seniors Around Town, he helped with the Fix Orinda Roads campaigns and provides vision and architectural drawings for our downtown, just to name a few endeavors. Orinda is so fortunate to have him and his wife Helen living in our small town.”
Born in Evanston, IL, in 1937 and raised in the Chicago area, Pete and Helen were living in Bethesda, Maryland, when they decided to move to Orinda in 1978. “Helen was raised in Orinda and her parents still lived in the area, and my parents had moved from the East Coast to the Bay Area,” said Hasselman. “We had two young daughters, and we wanted them to get to know their grandparents better. Fortunately, an opportunity arose where I could join an architectural firm in San Francisco, so we moved to the West Coast.”
With an international background in architecture and urban planning and a history of volunteerism, Hasselman quickly became ensconced in local projects. One of his first involved volunteering for the Fix Orinda Roads Committee. The volunteers dedicated themselves to repairing Orinda’s roads and associated storm drains and assuring their maintenance. The group supported the passage of Measure L 2012 Sales Tax, Measure J 2015 Bond and the Measure L 2016 Bond.
“Pete has been incredible in contributing his talents including his wonderful cartoon skills to convey to the public the terrible condition of our roads in a humorous fashion,” said OA President Carlos Baltodano.
The Citizen of the Year also uses his considerable architectural skills as part of the Orinda Vision team. Hasselman and Tom Trowbridge founded the group in 2010 to provide expertise on revitalizing Orinda’s downtown. The team of volunteer experts in law, development, management, landscape and transportation produced more than 200 renderings which envisioned what Orinda’s downtown could be and how both sides of Orinda could be more connected.
“It was my job to interpret the team’s ideas into architecture and urban designs,” said Hasselman, whose varied career includes creating a new town in Reston, VA, restoring historic train stations between Washington and Boston and redesigning the Armenian city of Spitak after a devastating earthquake in 1989 left it in ruins.
Currently, Hasselman’s primary volunteer activity involves driving for Seniors Around Town (SAT). Sponsored by the OA, the program uses volunteer drivers to provide door-to-door transportation to Orinda residents who are no longer able to drive.
“Driving for SAT has been a great experience for me. I’ve made so many good friends with both the riders and the other drivers,” Hasselman said. “You really get to know the people you drive as well as their families. One rider I regularly take to doctor’s appointments knows I love chocolate, so she always brings me chocolate candy when I pick her up.”
A native plant expert, environmental consultant and longtime community volunteer, Leitner is this year’s winner of the William Penn Mott Jr. Environmental Award.
The botanist is a past president of the East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and a board member of Friends of Orinda Creeks. She can be spotted frequently volunteering at the nonprofit Natives Here Nursery in Tilden Park, offering guidance on backyard projector, or rallying Orindans to help keep its creeks clean and healthy.
Leitner was nominated by Cinda Mac-Kinnon on behalf of Friends of Orinda Creeks.
“Using her wide knowledge of local native plants, Barbara has been dazzling as she assists customers in choosing appropriate plants all the while working on her true scheme, to draw them in deeper and deeper to increase their understanding and appreciation of native plants, especially in their native habitats,” she wrote in the nomination.
MacKinnon also praised Leitner’s ability to recruit and rally people around environmental causes, citing a training program Leitner instituted at the Tilden Nursery for volunteers to learn how to assist customers and make sales.
Among Leitner’s many accomplishments, MacKinnon noted a tree survey that tagged and mapped more than 218 trees along San Pablo Creek in Orinda Village as part of a creek restoration project.
Leitner said she is honored to be among the group of past award winners.
“I keep Orinda cleaned up,” she said. “There’s always room for more and always room for company. It’s very rewarding and rejuvenating.”
Leitner, who has lived in Orinda for 26 years with her husband Steve Leitner, has worked for the city as a consultant for 20 years offering advice about creek restoration. “I spend a lot of time thinking about environment and how we interact with it,” said Leitner.
A key focus has been her effort to eradicate the invasive stinkwort, Dittrichia graveolens, along the Lamorinda Highway 24 corridor. Since 2012 Leitner has volunteered with Caltrans for the necessary permissions, developing the most effective methods, including timing, tracking populations, rounding up volunteers, and bagging and properly disposing of the noxious weed.
Leitner said Orindians are fortunate to have such an extraordinary wealth of natural resources, from nearby wildlands to beautiful creeks and a comfortable climate. “There is so much to enjoy and appreciate here and take care of,” she said.
True to her practice, the blessing comes with advice.
“Times are changing and there’s so much more we need to do to even keep the resources we have for our future and the future of our children,” she said. Orinda is filled with intelligent, committed and powerful people capable of influencing the human carbon foot print not just in Orinda but beyond, according to Leitner.
“It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged by environmental conditions … if we decide to become knowledgeable in a small part of the environment and commit ourselves to do something, it opens the door to feel better about ourselves.”
Volunteer Award Winners
An Orinda resident since 1977, the British-born Haughin has been active in many local organizations over the years. He represented his neighborhood on the OA Board for many years prior to Orinda’s incorporation as a city in 1985. He returned to the board in 2011 and spent countless hours volunteering for the Fourth of July and Classic Car Show committees. Haughin is an emeritus member of the OA Board.
Haughin, who has been married to his wife June for 68 years, was also a very active volunteer with the Salvation Army, holding the office of treasurer for Central Contra Costa County for 22 years.
“I had a team of six to eight fellow volunteers who counted the kettle money. During that three to five hours every few days, we counted lots of pennies and nickels,” he recalls Haughin, who turns 90 March 11, said he looks forward to attending the awards ceremony on March 22.
Cosden, a former senior deputy district attorney, corporate counsel with PG&E and general counsel for several tech companies, is currently a consultant to GlassRatner, a national specialty financial advisory services firm.
But most of Orinda knows him by his voice, which is often heard over the loudspeakers announcing the Fourth of July parade, Miramonte women’s and men’s basketball, baseball and track, wheelchair basketball, soccer, college rugby and the NorCal Kids Triathalon.
“This award was so totally unexpected. There are so many people in Orinda deserving of it and it was never on my radar,” said Cosden. “I have been involved with lots of different groups over the years, and I just have so much fun volunteering. I’m especially proud to be involved with Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP).”
The organization is the leading provider and promoter of adaptive sports and accessible recreation for children and adults with physical disabilities. First introduced to wheelchair basketball at one of Orinda Intermediate School’s annual Diverse Abilities Awareness weeks, Cosden has become an avid supporter of BORP.
His other community activities include serving on the Lamorinda Idol committee, the OA’s Fourth of July committee, and coaching various OBA, CYO and OYA youth sports teams.
Editor Simar Khanna contributed to this story.