El Segundo City Councilman Don Brann has adhered to one self-imposed rule for his political career in city government: Never run for re-election.
Brann, who has been elected to two non-consecutive terms, has said he believes running as an incumbent could influence his decision-making.
So it’s no surprise that Brann, whose term was set to expire next year, would not run for re-election in March. But then he stepped down three months early.
Brann, 74, participated in his last council meeting earlier in December, a move he made to abide by a new state law and to stay on as president of Da Vinci Schools, a network of charter schools. Just like when he forewent re-election in 2012, following his first turn as a councilman, Brann received a key to the city, gifts and plenty of accolades.
“The meetings going forward might be a little more boring,” Brann joked to his colleagues during the send off Tuesday, Dec. 17. “I don’t care about being politically correct. I’m kind of blunt. I have less time ahead of me than behind me, so I just put it out there.”
Brann opted to step down early from his four-year term because of state Senate Bill 126, which says charter school governing boards are subject to the Brown Act, a law regulating public meetings for governmental agencies. Brann said he wants to stay on Da Vinci’s board, so he decided to retire from the City Council to avoid any conflicts.
Former colleagues and friends lined up at his last meeting to acknowledge the longtime El Segundo resident’s contributions to the city. Former Mayor Suzanne Fuentes called Brann “one of the kindest men I know,” who has the “heart of a servant.”
She credited him with leading some of the city’s biggest accomplishments, such as curbing the rising unfunded pension liabilities and creating the new El Segundo Wiseburn Aquatics Center, which opened about a year ago.
“You were the incentive and inspiration for that,” Fuentes said at the Dec. 17 meeting. “You have many legacies in this town, but one of the greatest is that pool. You are such a bridge builder and a powerful inspiration.”
During the past four years, Brann has often cast a lone dissenting vote on the panel. He showed, for example, consistent opposition to Topgolf developing the driving range at The Lakes at El Segundo golf course. He also opposed a new automated trash hauler that allowed El Segundo to, for the first time, offer green curbside recycle bins.
Councilman Scot Nicol acknowledged the majority of the council did not always see eye-to-eye with Brann, but said whatever disagreements they had were respectful.
“I’ve enjoyed agreeing with you on a few things and respectfully disagreeing on a few others,” Nicol said.
Brann, an independent since he was 18, is known for not mincing words and voting his convictions.
But his true legacy comes not from his time on the council, but from the field of education.
Brann spent four years as a fourth grade teacher in El Segundo before spending about 14 years as a superintendent for multiple districts throughout California.
In 1993, he became the superintendent of Wiseburn Unified School District, which encompasses the areas of El Segundo east of Pacific Coast Highway and, at the time, was losing students.
Brann suggested a permit program allowing employees who worked within the district to enroll their kids in a school there. The plan worked; the district netted 1,000 more students and increased its financial stability. Brann, who attended Dana Middle School as a child, would go on to be the superintendent there for 15 years.
“We really turned the district around, the district that helped me as a child,” Brann said during an interview last month. “Most people might not remember us or know us, but I’ll always know that I did something to help the neighborhood that I grew up in.”
Brann retired from Wiseburn in 2008. About six years later, education called him back when Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him as state administrator of the Inglewood Unified School District. He served there for two years, until 2015, as that district pulled itself out of financial hardships.
“I like school work and my ability to shape the future through children and teachers,” Brann said. “That’s my first love. Now that the law changed, I choose to be with Da Vinci because there I can change the world through getting more and more kids to reach their potential.”