George Osborne

1954 - 1955

George Osborne, PE was president of the Orange County Branch from October 1954 to September 1955. George was appointed by the Orange County Board of Supervisors to the position of Chief Engineer of the Orange County Flood Control District (OCFCD) in 1955. He was known as a disciplined engineer, a demanding mentor, and a politically astute administrator.  As Chief Engineer, he spearheaded the successful 1956 flood control bond election, a $43 million financing program.  This bond issue was the financial backbone under which the countywide system of flood control channels was constructed.  Implementation of the program allowed residential and commercial development of otherwise flood-prone areas of Orange County.

In 1974 Osborne was selected by the Board of Supervisors as the first Director of the new Environmental Management Agency (EMA) which consolidated the former departments of Planning, Building, Flood Control, Roads, Surveyor, Solid Waste, Water Pollution, Harbors, Beaches and Parks into a single unit of management reporting directly to the Board.  George retired from the County in 1980, but was never inactive during his retirement.  He served from 1981 to 1999 as Executive Director of the Santa Ana River Flood Protection Agency (a consortium of public agencies dedicated to securing political support for completion of the Army Corps of Engineers Santa Ana River Mainstem Project as authorized by the Congress in 1988).  He was appointed to the Orange County Planning Commission by the third district supervisor and eventually served as commission Chairman.  Later he was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Orange County Water District (OCWD) representing the City of Fullerton.  Eventually, he served as the OCWD’s Chairman."

Probably his greatest accomplishments were the organizing of the EMA, the management of that Agency from 1974 to 1980 and leading the efforts of the Counties of Orange. Riverside and San Bernardino in securing from Congress, the funds to create major flood control facilities along the Santa Ana River.  Some of those facilities were under construction at the time of his death. He was know as the Father of the Santa Ana River Main Stem Project. In order to house the EMA, the County built a new building. which bears his name in big letters.

George was a registered civil engineer.  In addition to being an Orange County Branch past President, he was a past President of the Los Angeles Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.  In 1994 he was awarded the Zone IV Government Civil Engineer of the Year Award.

From 150th Anniversary Book

H. George Osborne was the son of a civil engineer, and better known as George, or "HGO". He was educated in Orange County schools (including Fullerton Union High School) before entering the California Institute of Technology where he graduated in 1942. He served three years in the U.S. Navy, on a destroyer escort in the Pacific. He later retired from the Naval Reserve with the rank of Commander.

After the War George worked for the Southern California Water Company for a period before joining the Orange County Flood Control District in 1950. This was as Orange County was emerging from half a century of agricultural prominence. George served as President of the Orange County Branch of the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1955, the same year he was appointed to the position of Chief Engineer of the Orange County Flood Control District.

Under George Osborne's leadership a countywide bond election was approved in 1956. This was the financial backbone under which the county's flood control system was developed. During this period of the county's most rapid growth he led the planning efforts that would result in the area's development as the second most populated County in the State of California. As a department head, he was a rigid taskmaster, but compassionate about employee development. He was a mentor to many engineers who have risen to municipal or corporate leadership positions as beneficiaries of his tutelage.

In 1974 the County's Board of supervisors appointed George to the position of Director of Environmental Management Agency (EMA). This integrated the former road Department with the flood control district along with the Harbors, Beaches and Parks district, the Planning department and the Building department. George was a very active member of the statewide County Engineers Association's Flood Control Advisory Committee, serving as its chairman in 1972. He was also appointed by Governor (Edmund G.) Brown as a member of the California Water Pollution control Advisory committee during the early years of the federal Clean Water Act.

Retiring from full-time service to the county of Orange in 1980, George went on to become a member (and chairman) of the County Planning commission. He also founded, and served as Executive Director of the Santa Ana River Flood Protection Agency, an advocacy group for Congressional funding of the $1.4 billion Santa Ana River Mainstem Flood Control Project.

George was elected President of the American Society of Civil Engineers Los Angeles Section in 1989. He was also elected to the Board of Directors of the Orange county Water District, serving as its Chairman in 1996. Upon his passing in 1999 he was acknowledged for his engineering leadership in Orange County's development, coordinating both public and private infrastructure and integrating public works with environmental preservation.

George Osborne passed away on January 12, 1999, in Fullerton, California.  For additional information about George Osborne see the following links to an article about him from September 2012 and an Oral History recorded by the OC Branch History & Heritage Committ

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