Poindexter worked for the city for 35 years, starting as a trash collector in high school and ending his career as harbor master.
AVALON—Avalon’s Harbor Department said farewell to former Harbor Master James “JJ” Poindexter, who retired Sept. 30 after working for the city for 35 years. He spent the past four years as harbor master.
“The city being in the financially difficulty it’s in and 35 years on the job, it just felt like a good time,” Poindexter said.
With the economic devastation Covid-19 has brought to the island, which relies on tourism for nearly all its business, Poindexter said the city has been faced with a lot of tough financial decisions.
“My hope was to retire out and save someone on the bottom end,” Poindexter said. “My heart goes out to Denise and the city. They’re getting pulled in so many directions.”
Poindexter was recognized for his many years with the city at the Sept. 15 Avalon City Council meeting.
“The City Council and city of Avalon express their sincere appreciation and gratitude for JJ’s commitment and dedication to the city and congratulate him on the occasion of his retirement from the city of Avalon and wish him the best and continued success in his retirement and future endeavors,” Mayor Anni Marshall said at the Sept. 15 meeting.
Poindexter grew up in Avalon and began his extensive career with the city in 1973, when he was 15 years old, working as a seasonal trash collector at a $2.33 an hour wage. Poindexter stopped working for the city in 1977 but returned in 1989 as a full-time harbor patrol officer. In 1998 he was promoted to assistant harbor master and held the role of training officer and first aid and CPR/AED instructor for the Harbor Department. In 2017 he was promoted to interim harbor master and later that year took over the role permanently.
“I was very lucky to go from trash collector to harbormaster,” Poindexter said.
During his time with the Harbor Department, he pursued multiple training opportunities, including becoming a certified emergency medical technician (EMT). He also founded Avalon’s volunteer-based search and rescue team.
At the Sept. 15 meeting, Poindexter expressed gratitude to the 11 city managers, eight mayors and four harbor masters he’s worked for over the course of his 35 years with the city, giving a special shoutout to current City Manager Denise Radde.
He also expressed gratitude for those he’s worked with at the Harbor Department, Los Angeles County Baywatch paramedics and the Avalon Fire Department.
“We’ve had some unbelievable saves,” Poindexter said at the Sept. 15 meeting.
Poindexter said he remembers helping rescue a diver near the Isthmus who was in need of CPR. She was rushed to the University of Southern California Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber and fully recovered.
“She came back about a month and half later to say thank you and it doesn’t get better than that,” Poindexter said.
Orne Carstarphen will serve has the interim harbor master. He has been with the department for 27 years. He started as a part-time harbor patrol officer in 1991 and was hired full-time in 1997.
“His water experience is really extensive, which makes him perfect for this job,” Poindexter said.
City staff did not return an email from The Log inquiring about the process and timeline for naming a permanent replacement for the harbor master role.
As for his retirement plans, Poindexter said he plans to stay on the island where he has lived since he was three days old and where he met his wife in kindergarten. He said he will miss all the calls and making rescues.
“Those days of chasing ambulances are over,” Poindexter said.