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Arts Ambassador of the Month - May 2019

Written By Jim T. Gammill
Arts Council Menifee

It has been nearly a year since the passing of Neil Winter, Menifee’s third mayor since its incorporation in 2008. Winter was widely referred to as the people's mayor and the title was certainly well deserved; Neil Winter remained active in everything that he saw as beneficial to the city of Menifee from the time of his mayoral inauguration in 2016 to the day of his unexpected passing on May 19th 2018. Neil Winter is remembered fondly by many Menifee residents and has also left behind a positive impression on local government.

Mayor Winter was born in South Gate, California in 1953 and had a very interesting childhood. As the son of a commercial freezer salesman, Neil ended up living in nearly every one of the continental United States before eventually coming back to settle in Los Angeles County. Winter was bitten by the political bug early in life; he was elected Student Body President at Azusa High during his school years. Neil then continued his political path by earning a bachelor degree in Political Science from Cal Poly Pomona. It was around this time that Neil discovered coaching, another passion that he would practice for much of his adult life.​

Winter was an active swim coach for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) throughout the 1970’s and eventually coached water polo as well. Neil found that coaching young athletes motivated him to pursue teaching. Neil took courses at Point Loma Nazarene University in Elementary Education and eventually earned his teaching degree by passing the California state teaching credential test. During his short stint as an educator, Winter helped develop a teaching program known as the Winter Motor Development Program, which was recognized by several organizations.​

Neil Winter married his long-time girlfriend, Debbie, in 1979 and began a career in the corporate world shortly thereafter. Winter launched his corporate career as a sales associate for New York Life and eventually moved on to a position at a company called Pitney Bowes, which specializes in both conventional and industrial sized postal meters. Neil was an account manager that helped streamline the postage and mailing process for a countless number of banks, financial institutions, and religious organizations. The Winter family moved all over the country as Neil advanced and moved throughout the Pitney Bowes company until finally coming to call Menifee home in 2005.​

He found himself increasingly involved in local politics and events. He was a close friend and associate of John and Linda Denver as well as many other community minded individuals in the Menifee area. He was elected to the Menifee City Council in 2015 and ran a successful, grassroots campaign for mayor in 2016 against Scott Mann. As the third mayor of the City of Menifee, Winter was actively involved in community events including many of those organized by Arts Council Menifee. Mayor Winter’s support of Arts Council Menifee and the community at large proves that one doesn’t have to wield a paint brush or play an instrument to help enrich Menifee’s artistic community.​

Mayor Bill Zimmerman, who also served as past president of the Arts Council had the following to say about Neil Winter: "Mayor Winter was a kind man who enjoyed the arts, especially music and even singing for fun. It was always a joy to be with Neil, and we were honored whenever he attended Arts Council Menifee's events. I'm pleased that he is being recognized."​

It is with great joy and fond recollection of his past support that Arts Council Menifee proudly names former mayor, Neil Winter as its Arts Ambassador for May, 2019. Winter is survived by his wife and partner of 48 years, Debbie Winter and their two adult children who still reside in Menifee.

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