Who hasn’t wanted to be Doug McConnell—or at least wanted his job as the host (and producer) of KRON’s popular Bay Area Backroads? “I’m doing professionally what I do for pleasure,” says McConnell. “My life in television has helped me satisfy my huge appetite for going to new places and meeting new people.” Although his start, recruiting minority students for his alma mater Pomona College on the Navajo reservation, was a bit circuitous, he eventually landed a job in the mailroom at KTLA (Los Angeles), where he rose through the ranks and eventually moved around the country to pursue a career in television. Landing in the Bay Area in 1983, McConnell worked at KPIK, where some may remember him as the host of Mac and Mutley. A decade later, he began his dream job as the host of Bay Area Backroads.
Success as an Emmy award-winning journalist is only part of his story. A family man, McConnell together with his wife Kathy, raised their two sons in Marin along with a bevy of critters including dogs, cats, goldfish and a tree hyrax named Freddy. Most recently he was honored by the Marin Humane Society as “Humanitarian of the Year,” by the San Francisco Bay Trail Project as “Volunteer of the Year,” and by California State Parks as “Honorary Ranger of the Year.” A regular fixture around Marin, he can regularly be spotted at either Northpoint Coffee in Sausalito or Rulli’s in Larkspur, working on his new project, an online travel community, openroad.tv.
Why Marin? Many reasons. I love the immediate access to world-class urban and natural treasures and the sophistication and progressive attitudes of the people who live here.
Are you happy in Marin? I’m thrilled that Marin, more than any urban area I know, chose to protect much of its landscape and history from bulldozers, freeways and runaway suburban sprawl.
What gets on your nerves here? I do think that the enormous and ubiquitous wealth in Marin can distort the values and perceptions of its kids. It’s easy to not understand the less privileged world beyond.
Your idea of personal luxury? A day with no schedule, in a beautiful place with few mechanical sounds, enjoying my family, reading a little, moving my limbs, having good coffee in the morning and a maitai at sunset.
What do you value every day? Still being here and being reasonably healthy and fully engaged in life.
What person has influenced you the most? It’s “taken a village” to raise me—and the process isn’t over yet. I owe too much to too many to say for sure. But my mom and dad gave me the first gifts of unconditional love and a great childhood and they formed the foundation for everything else.
The most fulfilling moment in your work? The times when I’ve discovered that a program or project I helped create made a positive difference in someone’s life or helped nurture the earth a little.
It’s true, Marin is marvelous in many ways. Imperfect, but marvelous.
What stereotype doesn’t fit? The hot tub thing somehow lingers in the national consciousness. I bet we don’t have any more per capita than, say, Crawford, Texas. Just a guess.
What’s your favorite Marin view? I like seeing Marin from the air and knowing it’ll look roughly the same for generations to come and won’t be given to concrete.
Favorite journey? I always feel that the best journey is the one I’m on at the moment. I enjoy exploring places where nature absolutely insists on respect and experiencing other cultures. I loved straddling the equator at the moment of an equinox and experiencing four seasons at once.
I’d like to postpone the answer to this one. I’m not quite ready to be remembered yet. Self-delusion may be a wonderful thing, but I’d like to believe that I’m just getting started.
Mimi Towle has been the editor of Marin Magazine for over a decade. She lived with her family in Sycamore Park and Strawberry and thoroughly enjoyed raising two daughters in the mayhem of Marin’s youth sports; soccer, swim, volleyball, ballet, hip hop, gymnastics and many many hours spent at Miwok Stables. Her community involvements include volunteering at her daughter’s schools, coaching soccer and volleyball (glorified snack mom), being on the board of both Richardson Bay Audubon Center. Currently residing on a floating home in Sausalito, she enjoys all water activity, including learning how to steer a 6-person canoe for the Tamalpais Outrigger Canoe Club. Born and raised in Hawaii, her fondness for the islands has on occasion made its way into the pages of the magazine.