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Press Release

A Stellar Career in Land Use, Launched Because the D.A. Wasn’t Hiring

By Elaine Hesser, Carmel Pine Cone

Tony Lombardo and his wife, Sue, on safari in Africa, where the beasts are almost as scary as they are at the coastal commission.

WHEN ANTHONY Lombardo graduated from Santa Clara University’s school of law in 1982, he wanted to put bad guys in jail. There was only one problem: When he contacted the district attorney — now retired Judge Bill Curtis — he discovered there was a hiring freeze. So he interviewed at Noland, Hamerly, Etienne and Hoss, and didn’t get that job, either. A couple months later, though, the firm called him back. This time, he was hired. They sent their novice acquisition off to investigate a new fangled water management district that was being created, and a land use career was launched. Lombardo said he made partner in about four years. “I worked hard and had good mentors, like my father and Doc Etienne,” he said.

Lombardo’s late father, Nick, was a prominent businessman. Among other things, he was the founder and owner of Rancho Cañada and the main stockholder in Laguna Seca golf course. When the younger Lombardo was old enough to attend catechism, his dad gave him the option of working at Rancho Cañada rather than attending the religious training. On reflection, he thought it was more about his father wanting him to trade his dollar-a-week allowance for a real job than any spiritual issues. He quick- ly chose working for his father and continued to do so until he graduated from law school. Lombardo continues to be active in managing operations at Rancho Canada and Laguna Seca. “I do that in my spare time,” he joked.

In 1994, he left Noland Hamerly and founded the firm that would become Lombardo & Gilles, which grew in just over 10 years to 18 attorneys. In 2005, Lombardo said he realized he no longer wanted to “work around the clock.” He sold the firm to one of the partners, agreeing to stay on for another five years. At the end of 2011, he left and started his current firm, Lombardo and Associates, to focus on what he likes best: land use and real estate.

“I enjoy helping landowners get through what appear to be innumerable obstacles to use their property,” he told me.

His client list reads like a Monterey County Who’s Who — Clint Eastwood and Denny LeVett are there, along with just about every high-pro- file property you can think of: Skip Barber Racing School, Hyatt Hotels, Pasadera and Del Monte Shopping Center, to name a few. Charles Schwab is on the list, too — although Lombardo almost didn’t take that phone call.

“You know how it is when you own a small business … someone’s always trying to sell you something.” Accordingly, Lombardo delegated the job of handling salespeople to his office manager. When the call from Schwab came in, an exasperated Lombardo firmly ordered the office manager to handle it, until she explained that it wasn’t a sales rep from Charles Schwab, it was The Man Himself, calling for real estate advice. Lombardo will tell you he’s worked hard in his career, but he also spoke highly of partners and employees: “They’re a great bunch of people and integral to my success.” His life outside of work centers on his “wonderful wife, Susan,” and a ranch in South Monterey County. What he thought would be 10 acres with a few cows and horses has become a 16,000-acre ranch with more than 350 head of cattle. “It’s more about a lifestyle than making a living,” he said of cattle farming. “You measure time by the season instead of the tenth of the hour.” He added that while he and his wife live in Salinas and have enjoyed it, they’re starting to look for a place in Carmel. “We’d like to be someplace where we can walk to things. Besides, Carmel is just beautiful, and I have so many friends and clients there.”

Lombardo also travels to Tanzania on safari, hunting animals like Cape buffalo. “They look at you like you owe them money,” he said of the beasts. “At least you can talk to city councils and supervisors!” The safaris are part of a conservation effort to keep wildlife from being pushed out of the area by grain and cattle farming. Proceeds from the safaris go to build schools and hospitals; meat not consumed by hunters and guides is given to villagers, so nothing goes to waste. His conference room sports paintings of the buffalo and other African scenes.

Lombardo said he’s not planning to retire anytime soon. “I’ll continue on as long as I think I can be effective,” he said. Goals include getting his ranch to become self sustaining; it’s eventually going into a conservation easement. He said he also would like “to help Monterey Peninsula get a new water supply.”

We’ll drink to that!