ESCONDIDO — Escondido may be a growing city with a booming population of 150,000, but one face still stands out among the crowd: Dan Naylor or as he’s lovingly known, Dan the Man.
Naylor, 32, made headlines a year ago after he was fired from his city of Escondido job while wearing his uniform off the clock at a local wine bar. The news prompted residents to gather together to demand the city manager reinstate Naylor.
The firing was heartbreaking for Naylor, who is devoted to Escondido and previously volunteered for the city for four years before being hired as an employee.
But that was a year ago and Naylor told The Coast News it’s now “all good.”
“Everything is all good,” said Naylor, whose job is to keep the parks clean. “I love Escondido. I love my job. The city is treating me well.”
Naylor, who has cerebral palsy, is a lifelong San Diego County resident. He was born in Vista and briefly lived in Oceanside and Mira Mesa before making Escondido his home eight years ago.
Naylor’s love for life, people and the city of Escondido comes from a near-fatal car accident as a child, he said.
“Twenty-four years ago, I was hit by a car,” Naylor said. “I died for 10 minutes and was in a coma for six months. So, I treat every day and everybody as a blessing.”
And, Naylor does live every day to the fullest. His passion for interacting with people shows as he works additional jobs at Kettle Coffee & Tea and the farmers market in Escondido. He said being able to work every day gives him the opportunity to see friends while meeting new faces.
Katherine Zimmer, tourism manager for the city of Escondido, said Naylor has done more for the city than the city has done for him.
“I think if you ask anyone on Grand Avenue and beyond, they will tell you what a positive force of nature Dan is,” said Zimmer, who met Naylor in 2013. “We don’t see his disabilities anymore and sometimes forget what he has to endure to consistently show up day after day. His love for this city and dedication to making it better is unrelenting.”
Zimmer said Naylor not only help the city keep public areas clean, but he’ll also help local businesses. But, more than that, his presence has made a warm impact on the public.
“He impacts my daily life in so many ways … always bringing positivity and showing how important it is to connect with each other,” Zimmer said. “I look forward to my Dan moments and no matter what’s going on, he makes me laugh and think about life. He brings joy and gratitude wherever he goes.”
But he truly loves working for the city of Escondido, Naylor said.
“My job means a lot to me because I love seeing everybody,” said Naylor. “I love being a part of the city. I love helping everybody out. I know I am just the low man on the totem pole, but my job means a lot to me.”
Naylor means a lot to the city of Escondido too. He’s been given awards multiple times by former Mayor Sam Abed. He’s also received an award from the state of California for his commitment to the community.
Naylor, who speaks proudly of his accolades, said he’s “very proud” of what’s able to contribute to the city and its residents.
“My favorite part about living in Escondido is all the opportunities,” said Naylor, who noted he’s currently brainstorming ideas with the city manager on how to tackle homelessness in the city. “I have a lot of opportunities to do work for Escondido. It’s a beautiful city.”
When Naylor isn’t working one of his three jobs, he said he enjoys spending time in his beloved community. He enjoys watching movies, riding his bike and hanging out on Grand Avenue, the home to trendy restaurants and hangouts.
Naylor said he predicts he’ll live in Escondido for as long as possible.
“I plan on being in Escondido for as long as I can,” Naylor said. “And, I hope my legacy will be that Dan the Man worked as hard as he could and did the best job he could for the city of Escondido.”