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My OC: Lawrence Higby, political partisan and arts patron

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Retirement hasn't slowed Lawrence Higby's passion for politics and the arts.

In this contentious election season, who better to talk to than a political animal like Lawrence Higby? The Newport Beach resident is a native Southern Californian who, after receiving a political science degree from UCLA, jumped straight into politics by joining the presidential campaign of Richard Nixon. Then, during the Nixon administration, Higby served as an assistant to White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman during some of the intense Watergate years.

After his time in the Nixon administration, Higby held high-level executive positions at PepsiCo, Unocal and the Times Mirror Co. In 2002 Higby became chief operating officer of the Apria Healthcare Group, where he remained until his “retirement” (more on that further on) in 2008. He’s the current chairman of the New Majority California, which Higby describes as “a moderate Republican organization” that raises upwards of $3 million a year for California candidates and initiatives. “Politics is not just an interest,” Higby says, “but a lifelong passion.”

But far from his only one, which is why the word “retirement” doesn’t really describe him. In addition to working on a number of nonprofit boards, Higby, along with his wife, Dee, has been one of the driving forces at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, where he has been a board member since 1990 and served as chairman from 2011 until last year.

My neighborhood: Lido Isle. It’s a wonderful neighborhood.

Why I live there: Because our house is right on the water, we have an extraordinary view, we can hear the surf at night, and the people are fabulous. My wife Dee and I also had the chance to build the house we always wanted on Lido Isle, our dream home. It’s a house that fits us just perfectly.

My perfect day: Oh gosh. It would start off going down Coast Highway early in the morning to play golf with my buddies, coming back in the afternoon and watching our grandchildren play sports, particularly soccer and baseball, and then probably going out on our Duffy and stopping somewhere harborside for dinner, or biking to Crab Cooker.

Fill in the Blank: “I Am a ______ Kind of Golfer”:  A “not-that-good” kind. [Laughs] I’ll take the fifth on that!

My sanctuary: My office at the house, the office I had designed when I retired. It fits my personality. It’s an interesting mix of sort of the East Coast and the West Coast. There are a lot of wonderful things in it that remind me of wonderful times we have had throughout the years, like the picture I am looking at of my grandchildren right now. We were over in Hawaii last year.

Why I Need an Office If I’m Now Retired: Most of my time now is spent on charitable causes. I have two primary areas of interest – the first is education, I am on the board of the Mind Research Institute, the Board of Visitors at UCLA Anderson School of Management, and I am a regent at Brandman University. Those keep me fairly busy because they are really interesting institutions, trying to find new and creative ways to help a lot more people get a great education. The other passion that takes some time are the arts – I was chairman of the board of trustees of South Coast Rep theater and was on that board for nine years, have been on the board of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for about 20 years and just retired after serving four years as chairman for that group.

Musical or Dance: I enjoy musicals, but I really am a dance kind of guy. I think the dance program we have at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts is certainly among the finest in the United States, if not the world.

On your nightstand: The book is right here, I’ll grab it – see the office is right next to the bedroom – what a convenient arrangement! I’m reading two books right now, actually: “The Real Watergate Scandal,” by Geoff Shepard, which is a really interesting look, 40 years later when all the emotion is gone, on what really happened in Watergate. And another book called “Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary,” by Edward Klein. If you haven’t figured out by now, I’m probably a Republican.

Reagan or Rockefeller: That’s easy–Reagan!

Trump Is…:  An interesting personality. Clearly he has captured and given voice to issues about our government that need to be fixed. The question is, is he the right person to get it done?

Clippers or Lakers: Ugh. UCLA! And Kings!

Favorite Restaurant: Marché Moderne, the Studio at the Montage – it’s fabulous, with a breathtaking setting. And the other one would be Ruby’s.

Favorite Late Night Haunt: You know, hmm, gosh, every place we go we stay late … probably AnQi.

Favorite Place Outside of California: Hawaii, The Big Island. Oahu and Maui are sort of like Palm Springs West, just too crowded. This will be our second year where we take everybody to Hawaii at the Mauna Lani resort for Thanksgiving. It’s really fun.
 
Pet Peeve: Slow drivers.
 
Personal Motto: Don’t hold a grudge too long – life is too short. At the end of the day, we are all so lucky to be living in Southern California and particularly in Orange County, and most particularly the United States of America.


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