Posted on Tuesday, June 1, 2021
Jim Curtis '83, Community Services Manager for the City of Indio in Indio, Ca., shares his passion for planning high-end events, including his involvement with the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival each year. He touches on how the tragic accident that took the life of his best friend from Westminster College led him to following his passions without "could've, would've" in his vocabulary.
When you remember your time at WC, who do you recall taught you the most? My fraternity brothers. Besides attending classes, most of my time at Westminster College was spent at the fraternity. I didn’t realize that I would make such good friends at college, and now some of my lifelong friends.
Where did life take you following graduation? After graduating with a degree in Business Administration, I got into sales, like my father. This job took me to New England. After a tragic accident that took the life of my best friend from Westminster, I headed to Los Angeles to find my fame and fortune in the acting industry. After 4-5 year in the industry, I decided to change my life and work doing what I love: Golf. I got an entry level golf position with a golf management company that managed over 300 golf courses across the country. I managed courses in Southern CA and Nevada for over 15 years. I managed multiple tournaments and events at these golf courses, and the one I managed in Las Vegas was played by PGA professionals during the Las Vegas Open. This experience led me to being hired by the Frank Sinatra Celebrity Golf Invitational that was held annually in Palm Springs. It combined my love for golf and high-end events. I was then hired by my current employer, The City of Indio, which is located about 20 miles from Palm Springs. Indio’s tagline is the City of Festivals.
What’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned so far? What can others learn from your lesson? Don’t always take the safe route. When I was a senior at Westminster, I tried out for the musical, Godspell, that the theater department was putting on. I was cast in one of the 8 roles in the show. A week or so before the show opened, my economics professor asked me if I was the Jim Curtis in the show? “Aren’t you in the Sigma Nu fraternity and aren’t you a business major? How are you in this show?” After he saw the show, he pulled me aside and said, “now I know why you were cast in the show – you were fantastic.”
Like I mentioned, my best friend from Westminster died a few years after we graduated doing what he wanted to do…fly helicopters. His death changed my life. “Could’ve, should’ve” was not in my vocabulary after he died. I did. That’s why I moved to Los Angeles to try and make it as an actor. I didn’t want to always ask the question, “What If?” I love what I do now and I feel good waking up every morning to do my job.
How have you used your WC experiences to help you accomplish your biggest passions in life? I was telling some people the other day that Westminster gave me an overall great education. Not just specifically about my major, but also life in general. The knowledge that I learned at Westminster prepared me, unknowingly, for the rest of my life.
Tell me about your current profession. I am the Community Services Manager for the City of Indio. I oversee all aspects of the Community Services Department. This includes the Indio Senior Center, The Indio Teen Center, The Lights at Indio Golf Course, The Indio Performing Arts Center and all special events that take place in our city. I have been with the City of Indio for 17 years.
What’s your affiliation with Coachella? The Coachella Music and Arts Festival is very special to me and very important for the City of Indio and our entire Coachella Valley. I am the liaison between the promoter of Coachella and the City of Indio and have been a part of Coachella for 16 of my 17 years with the City of Indio. Every April is an exciting time here in the Palm Springs area. Coachella started out in 1999 with 15,000 people attending. Now, there are two weekends of Coachella… Coachella 1 and Coachella 2, each having 125,000 people in attendance each day. Then add in one more weekend after that for Stagecoach: California’s Country Music Festival with 85,000 people attending each day. This makes April a very busy month and a time that I don’t see my family very much.
What’s the coolest part of that role? I have a couple “coolest parts” of my role with Coachella. One is just planning the festivals. Months and months of meetings with law enforcement, community members, homeowners around the festival area and HOA Board of Directors leads up to the festivals. Everyone is on board in making Coachella a lifetime experience for the guests, but also safe for our residents, businesses and concert-goers. Another cool part is adding to the experience of a Make-A-Wish child that has chosen Coachella to be their wish. Every year, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, in conjunction with the promoter, brings a child and their family to experience Coachella. I get to give this child and their family a behind-the-scenes tour of the venue. I take them backstage to see how the show runs; I take them to the campgrounds where 40,000 people are car-camping or tent-camping or glamping; and I show them our production areas and our command post. It’s so awesome to see their faces light up and they are so thankful for the tour. I am the thankful one to be a part of making their wish come true.
Outside of work, how do you like to spend your days? We have over 120 different golf courses here in the Coachella Valley and it’s on my bucket list is to play every course. I just finished playing #82. I am a sports nut (all Pittsburgh teams are still my teams). I have been married to my wife, Christine, for 25 years and we have 2 daughters. My oldest just graduated from San Diego State University and my youngest is getting ready to start high school in the fall. I am still a few years away from retiring, and then I can probably finish off my golf bucket list. My family loves the beach and we love taking the 2-hour drive to get in the water.
For more stories like this one, read Westminster College's Alumni Newsletter, The Wake Up with Wiley.