Like a cowboy wearing a white hat in the movies, Edward R. Waite, the self-styled, hard-driving Lone Ranger of Atwater Village, will ride off into the sunset Saturday.
"I'm going to kiss my horse, get on and go," said the white-haired, 62-year-old Waite, who has championed law and order, civic responsibility and community betterment since arriving in Atwater in 1953 from his native New York.
After 36 years, Waite, a retired insurance salesman who also worked for the federal government, is giving all that up. He divorced his wife and sold his house. He will leave Saturday for the first vacation he has taken in 21 years before searching for a new home up north.
And as in the movies, Waite's farewell is being accompanied with a crescendo of tributes--from the residents he has led over the years as president of the Atwater Village Homeowners Assn. to the Los Angeles City Council members he has consistently badgered.
"I've done all the damage I can do in Atwater, so I think it's time I moved on," Waite told council members Friday during a special tribute in the council chambers. "In all the years that I've been coming down here, I never understood why the council never realized that I was always right."
With unusual fanfare, five council members made it a point to comment on Waite's accomplishments.
"He has established himself as an important conduit between the people of the area and the government," said Councilman John Ferraro, whose district includes Atwater Village. "He can tell you where every crack in the sidewalk is."
Councilman Joel Wachs, who admitted that he initially considered Waite "a pain in the neck," said Friday that he "stands for what a citizen can do in his community."
Councilman Hal Bernson, complimenting Waite for his tenacity, said the Atwater leader "exemplifies the true spirit of what homeowner associations and community activism is all about."
Waite, a former amateur boxer, said he is not sure where he will move, possibly to Washington or Oregon. "I just want to relax, let my head clear, get a dog and cat, and live quietly and anonymously," he said Wednesday.
"I'm going to mind my business and not tell anybody I know anything," he said. "I'm going to play dumb."
Yet he admits that he has enjoyed his years of firing silver bullets. "Tell the people that I love them and that I love Atwater," he said.