Howard Mankins, who died Sunday at age 86, left an indelible mark on San Luis Obispo County — particularly the South County, where his impressive career spanned politics, business, community service, finance, even amateur history.
Mankins represented the Fourth District on the Board of Supervisors for 12 years, from 1971 to 1983. He earned a reputation as a hard worker who, in the words of his colleague Hans Heilmann, “is a man that if he says he’ll do something, he’ll do it.”
During Mankins’ time on the board, several key projects were undertaken: development of the South County Library and South County Regional Center; planning and development of Biddle Park in Arroyo Grande; restoration of the old Southern Pacific Railroad depot in Oceano; the new County Government Center —which is now the county courthouse — and a new juvenile hall.
Mankins didn’t stop there. After leaving the board, he was persuaded to run for mayor of Arroyo Grande. Not afraid to ruffle feathers, one of his first moves as mayor was to suggest studying the possibility of merging Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Oceano and Halcyon. When that failed to gain traction, he switched his focus to other ambitious projects, such as developing senior housing and designating areas to be rezoned as mobile home parks.
His lengthy résumé included many other pursuits as well. He was a partner in Brisco’s True Value Hardware and Lumber Yard, the family business; served on a variety of boards and special districts (he was still serving on the county Pension Trust Board at the time of his death); he played an active role in the Mormon Church — he formerly served as bishop of the Arroyo Grande Second Ward; and he researched local history. His history projects included the San Luis Obispo County seal — he commissioned the carved mahogany seal for the board chambers.
Of the many quotes attributed to him over the years, this one, from 1982, is our favorite: “Everybody ought to be a participant. That’s what made us great Americans. The pioneers didn’t have any slackers.”
Howard Mankins — the man who, if he said he’d do something, would do it — was no slacker, and his many contributions will bear that out for years to come.