Park honors Hamel, former Roseville mayor, principal

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein |
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Mel Hamel has been known for quite a few roles in town, whether it’s City Council member, mayor or elementary school principal. But this weekend, he’ll don his most unexpected hat so far – as the namesake for the city’s newest park. Mel Hamel Park is slated to be formally dedicated at 11 a.m. Saturday, bringing the city’s total number of parks up to 60. At the tropical-themed park this week, located at 10080 Crocker Ranch Road, the father-of-three said he was flattered and a little stunned by the honor. It’s just the latest distinction for the self-described “farm boy from Nebraska,” who moved here from Southern California with wife Carol in 1972. They were seeking to escape their rat-race existence in Orange County back then, so Hamel applied for and received a principal’s job at Sierra Gardens Elementary School. The pace was slower and sense of community stronger – the population was just 18,000 – and that was just what the couple, both educators, was after. “Coming from a small town, I wanted that sense of belonging,” Hamel, 71, said. “The first day of school, my secretary knew every kid’s name, knew their parents and their grandparents.” Hamel would move on to take the top job at Cirby and Spanger elementary schools, impacting the lives of thousands of families over the years – including his own. “At one point, I had two of my kids at Cirby when I was principal,” Hamel said. “I said, ‘At school I’m not your dad and you’re going to treat me like everybody else does – I’m Mr. Hamel.’” But spurred by his desire to help shape his community – and perhaps prevent it from adopting a Southern California-style development playbook – he opted to try local politics, and ran for council in 1987. As a transplant, Hamel was at a little bit of a disadvantage, since most local pols back then were born-and-bred Roseville people. But Hamel likes to say he had a little help from his wife, Carol, who had run successfully for the high school board. “I said the only reason I got elected was because everybody liked her,” he joked. As a council member and, later, mayor, Hamel had a hand in shepherding the city during its most formative period of the late-’80s to late-’90s. He said his biggest duties involved helping establish the Roseville Auto Mall, selling Roseville Hospital to establish the Community Benefit Fund and negotiating greater fees from developers to help pay for schools and parks. “I was happy at 18,000, but we didn’t have any shopping,” said Hamel, who served as mayor from 1993 to 1995. Since retiring in 1997, Hamel has kept busy traveling – the couple has visited Europe 14 times (Italy is a favorite) – playing golf, and working out (beginning at 5:30 a.m., five days a week). But the Sun City resident stills lives by the words engraved on the park’s sign: “Service is the price you pay for the space you occupy on this earth.” FYI What: Dedication for Mel Hamel Park When: 11 a.m. Saturday, March 21 Where: 10080 Crocker Ranch Road, Roseville Park features: 9 acres; tropical-themed play structures; basketball half-court; two soccer fields, sand volleyball pit; totem-pole mister Who: Mel Hamel Age: 71 Known for: Former principal and mayor Family: Wife of 47 years Carol; three children: Julie, 44; Todd, 42; and Jon, 39