Peter Naghavi, the deputy CEO and economic and development director for the city of Costa Mesa, will be retiring from the city next week. He will still be on board, however, to help find his replacement and oversee some everyday activities. (SCOTT SMELTZER, Daily Pilot / October 26, 2012)

"He's been a constant professional and always one to tackle difficult issues, but do it in a way that's collaborative," Hatch said.

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'You have no choice but to succeed'

For the majority of Naghavi's working career in Costa Mesa, he was the transportation services manager. For 17 years, he kept busy with major projects such as the completion of the Costa Mesa (55) Freeway to Newport Boulevard and two other major endeavors: the I-405/SR-55 Transitway Project and I-405/SR-73 Confluence Project.

The former project included adding an offramp from the San Diego (405) Freeway to Avenue of the Arts, an onramp at Anton Boulevard, and direct HOV connectors between the 55 and 405.

He also worked on expanding lanes on Harbor Boulevard and computerizing the city's traffic signal system.

Then there were all those hundreds of little projects, he said.

"The beauty of my work then as a transportation manager is that I had to work on a variety of issues, from an old lady who had a little parking problem in front of her house all the way to a $120-million project and everything in between," Naghavi said.

Everyone thought their problem was the biggest, he said. It was up to him and his staff to balance it all.

"It gives you a sense of comfort and a sense of accomplishment when you see in the eyes of residents that they're received what they've wanted on their street, even though it may not be that big of an important thing in the big picture," Naghavi said.

"The most beautiful part of my job was being able to work with the public," he added. "A lot of times we agreed on things; a lot of times we didn't agree on everything, but as long as we all had the best in heart and did not have a personal agenda — and that we're honest with a high level of integrity — everything always worked out."

Costa Mesa is unique geographically, he said, with three freeways bisecting it.

"That's major access," he said. "Most cities would love to have that, if they could manage the traffic part of it."

It's near the ocean but not quite on the coast; it's near John Wayne Airport and it has revenue-generating South Coast Plaza.

"You have everything it takes to make this city a beautiful city," Naghavi said. "It's a very eclectic city. You have a hodgepodge of everything."

Those aspects, as well as the community members themselves, helped fuel his desire to stay.

"Our development community is so good, so sophisticated," he said. "Then you put that together with sophisticated community members. You have the community, you have the business community and you have city staff, who are extremely professional. You add that to our City Council that provides our policies and goals.

"You have no choice but to succeed. Even if you didn't want to succeed, you'll succeed."

He said that he hopes his legacy is one of service with integrity, honesty and frankness.

"I never let any personal agenda come into the picture, whether it was the community or the council or anybody, for that matter," Naghavi said. "I always wanted to do what I thought what was right for this community, and for the most part, they saw it that way too."

bradley.zint@latimes.com

Twitter: @bradleyzint