Donald C. Tillman is a rarity in the long line of Los Angeles City Engineers. He is a "Native Son" to Los Angeles. While biographical material is somewhat sketchy on some of his predecessors, only Fred Eaton was also born in Los Angeles.
Mr. Tillman attended Fremont High School where he won scholastic honors, was a 3-year letterman in football and track, and was Student Body President. As a student at the California Institute of Technology, he continued to win scholastic honors (Tau Beta Pi, Engineering Honor Society), display athletic leadership, and again became Student Body President. Here, he received both his B.S. and M.S. degree in Civil Engineering. His graduate work occurred after serving in the Civil Engineer Corps of the U.S. Navy during World War II.
After doing some private survey work in New Jersey, and a 6-month Job Engineer assignment for a major freeway contractor, he joined City service in November 1947, as a Civil Engineering Assistant in the Bureau of Engineering. He was promoted to Civil Engineer in 1952 and to Senior Civil Engineer and Assistant District Engineer in 1955.
In 1960, he became the youngest, and only civil servant, appointee to the Board of Public Works Commission, named by then Mayor Norris Poulson and subsequently retained on the Board by Mayor Sam Yorty. He served 1 1/2 years as a Commissioner and as President of the Board of Public Works before accepting a Civil Service promotion and returning to the Bureau of Engineering as Chief Deputy City Engineer.
In 1972, he was promoted to City Engineer. In his incumbency, he supervised the public works management of professional design and construction for highways, storm drains, bridges, treatment plants, and sewer systems in Los Angeles, which had become the nation's second largest city (1980 census). He was perhaps the most involved City Engineer the City has ever had in state and national public works policy and professional societies.
He directed a work force of more than 1,200 personnel with an annual budget of $30 million, primarily salaries.