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Big Changes at Santa Barbara Waterfront

Big Changes at Santa Barbara Waterfront

Mick Kronman | Credit: Paul Wellman

Salty, sentimental, outspoken, occasionally profane, and always passionate Mick Kronman — the unlikeliest of bureaucrats — has stepped down as city Harbormaster after 20 years. His departure comes shortly after Waterfront director Scott Reidman retired this summer for health reasons. Their combined departures leave a serious hole at the leadership of the city’s waterfront department.

Kronman — a former fisherman and journalist — was hired as Harbormaster 20 years ago in hopes that his personal experience in a fishing boat, and as  a consultant for the industry, would help improve relations between City Hall and the commercial fishermen. While they’ve butted heads more than a few times over the years, many commercial fishermen were on hand at his retirement party Sunday night. One longtime fisherman said Kronman has helped keep the commercial fishing industry viable on the Santa Barbara waterfront, keeping at bay the forces of “yachtification.”

Kronman was affectionately roasted by those who remembered him as an Isla Vista radical. “You were sticking it to The Man,” said quipped one. “Now you are The Man.”

Kronman served several months in Chino prison after he got into a fight with a man, later revealed to be a plainclothes cop, who was assaulting a friend. While in Chino, Kronman heard prison guards announce, “Dead man walking,” as they escorted Charles Manson by. He also made the acquaintance of a prisoner nick-named “Pincushion,” after having been stabbed 52 times over a disagreement over peanut butter. Kronman recalled, “I got scared straight.”

After his release, Kronman found solace and stability as a deckhand on a boat and moved his way up the commercial fishing food chain. Later as a journalist and industry advocate, Kronman, the son of a Hollywood screenwriter, would write about it for news outlets and trade publications. Later, as Harbor Master, he would write a comprehensive history of fishing in the Santa Barbara Channel, From Hooks to Harpoons. His politics shifted from campus radical to libertarian. Given the low regard libertarians have for many government programs, several speakers ribbed Kronman for having taken a government job. “Ah, the ironies of a well lived life,” he replied. Over the years, Kronman had received no fewer than four kidney transplants. All four donors were on hand.

Professionally, Kronman had been named Harbormaster of the Year by a an association of California harbormasters. This year he was given the lifetime achievement award.

Filling in as acting waterfront director for two months will be Brian Bosse, who commented on the infectiousness of Kronman’s laugh: “It will be a lot quieter,” Bosse said. “That’s what we’ll miss the most.”

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