Paul Palmer grew up in Columbia, Maryland. He majored in radio and television at the University of Maryland and was a radio personality for several years in Washington and Baltimore before moving to the business side of the media in Chicago.
In 1972, he moved to La Jolla and became the general manager of San Diego’s KFMB AM/FM and led those stations for 22 years. Seeking a significant career change, he became president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County in September 2002. Last month, Palmer was recognized by the San Diego Business Journal as Most-Admired CEO in the nonprofit category.
Under Palmer’s leadership, BBBS has expanded its programs to include school-based mentoring at 25 schools. BBBS also mentors children with a military parent deployed from Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base.
Palmer and his wife, Marge, live in La Jolla and have three children and seven grandchildren.
What brought you to La Jolla?Five very cold Chicago winters with using a hammer to break the ice off my car windshield after riding the train to the suburbs. Originally, I thought Los Angeles was my destination, but after visiting the beautiful beaches of La Jolla, it was no contest where I wanted to move my family. The offer to relocate from Chicago and manage the KFMB radio stations was an incredible opportunity for someone 29 years old.
What makes La Jolla special to you?When planning to leave Chicago, I looked at all areas of the country for a place to establish roots for my family. The beauty of coastal area, the weather and the opportunity to be part of an exciting “city of the future” made San Diego and La Jolla my hands-down choice. After living here a short while, I discovered that the people were another great asset of this city. People here have positive outlooks and are very supportive of one another. This is a great community for raising a family.
If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in La Jolla?First, I’d have all the roads resurfaced with permanent “no more potholes” materials. Then, I’d re-open the Cove Theater with stadium seating. I’d also make a permanent ban on parking meters in La Jolla.
Who or what inspires you?My grandmother and grandfather, who raised me, and two uncles were my role models. Their love of family, high values and selflessness were qualities that I have tried to emulate. Nature inspires me - its beauty and power. I can watch the ocean for hours and completely change my attitude when I am having a bad day.
If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?Jonathon Winters and Robin Williams to keep the conversation lively; Thomas Jefferson to help us remember what America is really all about; Mother Teresa and Jesus; Phyllis Diller, who inspired me early in my radio career; Ken Blanchard who continues to inspire me; and my wife, Marge, who is interested in everything.
What are you currently reading?“Getting Things Done” by David Allen, “Here and Now” by Henry Nouwen and “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” by John Perkins.
What is your most prized possession?The Purple Heart received by my Uncle Eddie who was killed in World War II and personal autographs from 1964 when I interviewed John Lennon, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Paul McCartney.
What do you do for fun?Actually, my work at Big Brothers Big Sisters is fun because of how we can positively affect children’s lives. I’ve always believed if you are not having fun at your job, you are probably in the wrong job. I play golf, walk at the beach, go to the theater and movies, play the piano, and play with our seven grandchildren.
Describe your greatest accomplishment.Six years ago, my answer would have been “leading a team in building two struggling radio stations to become among the best in San Diego.” Somehow, that has been eclipsed with “leading a team of dedicated young employees at Big Brother Big Sisters to dramatically change lives of thousands of children with one-to-one mentoring from a caring volunteer role model.”
What is your motto or philosophy of life?Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh a lot. Have fun. Work hard and try to be your best at whatever you are doing. Help and encourage others to fully utilize their talents and gifts. Always be where you are supposed to be, never eat at a place called “Mom’s” or play cards with a guy named Lucky.