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New Board of Directors Chair

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New head of the board that protects the Puente Hills Habitat has some big shoes to fill

By Mike Sprague | | Whittier Daily News

PUBLISHED: March 10, 2019 at 7:24 am | UPDATED: March 11, 2019 at 9:09 am
Whittier Daily News

Hacienda Heights resident Mike Hughes, who is the new chairman of the Board of Directors for the Puente Hills Habitat Authority poses for a portrait at the Turnbull Canyon Preserve in Hacienda Heights, Calif. on Tuesday March 5, 2019. (Photo by Raul Romero Jr, Contributing Photographer)

Since the 1990s, Hacienda Heights resident Mike Hughes has fought to close the Puente Hills Landfill, served as president of the Hacienda Heights Improvement Association for eight years and now he is taking on a role with some big shoes to fill.

Hughes is the new chairman of the Puente Hills Habitat Authority, a joint-powers agency that manages 3,870 acres of public open space. But he’s succeeding former Whittier Councilman Bob Henderson who has been the only chairman the Puente Hills Habitat Authority has ever known since its founding in 1994.

Whittier Councilman Bob Henderson stands among California Native Plants on the Arroyo Pecadero trail in the Whittier Hills on Friday March 28, 2008. Henderson helps lead the way to save the Whittier Hills from development. (Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger)

Henderson lost his re-election bid last year, and the Whittier City Council on April 23 is expected to designate his replacement on the habitat authority’s board.

“Since I won’t be here too much longer, we should give people more experience,” Henderson said.

“Mike is very well qualified,” Henderson said. “He’s is a very good businessman, and he’s a good environmentalist.”

Hughes, who has served on the authority board since 2010 — he was

Whittier Councilman Bob Henderson stands among California Native Plants on the Arroyo Pecadero trail in the Whittier Hills on Friday March 28, 2008. Henderson helps lead the way to save the Whittier Hills from development. (Staff Photo by Keith Durflinger)

appointed by the Los Angeles County supervisor to represent Hacienda Heights — also is president of Hills for Everyone and is the Los Angeles County public director and vice chair of the Wildlife Corridor Conservation Authority.

And the Whittier Area Audubon Society is set to honor Hughes with the 2019 Conservation Award at 6 p.m. March 19 dinner at the Hillcrest Congregational Church, 2000 West Road, La Habra Heights.

“Michael has worked tirelessly in the preservation, restoration and management of our local resources and natural environment, as well as many environmental causes in our area,” Susana Guerrero, a member of the Audubon Society board, said in an emailed news release about Hughes and their dinner.

Mike Williams, who just stepped down as Hacienda Heights Improvement Association president, described Hughes as “a concerned resident who looks at a problem and takes it on. He’s very concerned about our community. He loves the hills.”

After Henderson, Hughes is the “next best choice” to be chairman, said Ivan Sulic, field deputy for Supervisor Janice Hahn who represents her on the authority’s board.

“Mike has been involved in environmental policy an community engagement when it comes to the hills for many years,” Sulic said. “He really has the passion for the hills, not only for residents but for the animals.”

Hughes grew up in Alhambra and Rosemead, received a bachelor’s degree from Cal State Los Angeles and worked for King Meat Co. in Vernon for 44 years, including time as vice president of its seafood division. He retired in 2016.

He and his wife, Christina, moved to Hacienda Heights in 1982 and joined in the fight to close the Puente Hills Landfill.

Hughes joined the Hacienda Heights Improvement Association, eventually becoming its environmental chairman. He served as president from 2000-2003 and again from 2007-2010.

When the Habitat Authority was formed, Hughes served on its Citizens Technical Advisory Committee for 11 years and later was the alternate director for the seat that represents Hacienda Heights.

“To me, it was a great idea,” he said of the authority. “Let’s protect the hills.”

In 2010, former Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe appointed him to the board, and when Janice Hahn was elected in his place, she reappointed Hughes.

Hughes said he’s honored to be taking over for Henderson and knows the authority faces some challenges.

“There’s always finances,” he said. “The authority isn’t flush with money. I would like to continue as a fiscally conservative organization and continue on with the mission. We will continue to restore the habitat when we can.”

Another issue is the briefer public hours the board imposed on Hacienda Hills, Hellman, Sycamore Canyon and Turnbull Canyon trail head areas which has some, including the Whittier City Council, complaining.

“We’re going to have to wait and see,” Hughes said. “We’re struggling with not having a biologist on staff and need to see the numbers and how the change in hours have impacted the wildlife.”

But overall, Hughes said he sees no need for a big shakeup.

“Bob’s set up a well-organized, well-oiled machine,” Hughes said. “There are no plans, expectations or change in the philosophy of the Habitat Authority.”



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