Meet the Arnerich Family: A Life Dedicated to Giving Back to the Community
Newell Arnerich, Danville Councilmember and previous Mayor (six terms), who was first elected in 1995, is often asked, “Why did I get involved on the Danville Council?” The answer begins with his wife of 45 years, Janis Arnerich. His community involvement started thirty years ago on Danville’s Architectural Design Review Board and Planning Commission. Janis, a westside Montair Elementary Kindergarten teacher at the time, saw the advertisement asking for volunteers to serve on the Architectural Design Review Board, and as Newell explains, “she reminded me I had always wanted to get involved. I applied and went through two of my toughest professional interviews even though it was a volunteer position.”
After serving six months there was an opening on the Danville Planning Commission for a Design Review Board member to serve on both entities. Newell applied, had another rigorous interview, and was appointed by the Danville Council to the Planning Commission. After Newell served 5 years on both, he came to realize that Danville was not in very good financial shape and saw signs of missteps with the then current leadership. It was 1995, just having graduated Leadership San Ramon Valley, Newell applied his experience as a business owner of many years and decided Danville needed a new direction and to get its finances in order. Since that time, Danville’s financial health has been guided by Newell’s “pay as you go” fiscal policies, which have kept Danville fiscally strong. Newell explains, “a town must move cautiously and hold levels of service to the highest standards even during bad economic times. In Danville we were able to keep our services level at a very high mark throughout the great recession with no layoffs and no debt.” This was accomplished on the basis of both the ‘pay as you go’ philosophy and by extraordinary efforts and sacrifices of all of our Town employees. I can confidently say now that Danville’s financial management, staff and senior leadership is a shining example of how to run a cost-effective local government with no debt, saving and paying cash for capital projects and is the most cost-effective town in the area by a significant amount with no unfunded liabilities in any category.”
As Mayor, Newell presided over “hometown hero” celebrations of Captain “Sully” Sullenberger and Olympic Gold Medalists Jessica and Maggie Steffens. Newell serves on a variety of local and statewide committees keeping Danville at the forefront of engagement. These include, Rotary Club, past member for 23 years, Discovery Counseling 20 years, Leadership San Ramon Valley 20 years, Danville Library Endowment Board Member, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Posse, 100 Club Contra Costa County Life Member, Tri Valley APAPA, a volunteer for Hospice of the East Bay, Organization Welcome Home, supporter of Sentinels of Freedom, and a Volunteer/Supporter for Operation Wounded Minds. An advocate for public education serving on Measure D School Facilities Bond Committee and Co-Chair, Valley Wide Committee on Youth Safety and Development. Graduate of Leadership San Ramon Valley, League of California Cities Mayors & Council Members Academy for Leadership and Advanced Leadership.
Newell earned a Bachelor’s degree at UC Berkeley in 1974, Master’s degrees in Architecture/Urban Design at UC Berkeley in 1976, and taught at UC Berkeley from 1975 to 1977. In 1978 Newell co-founded AD Architects in Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Honolulu, and a joint venture office in London. He has been the President/CEO of this awarding winning architectural firm in the Bay Area and Los Angeles for the past 40 years.
Janis and Newell have been living in West Danville now for 31 years, and for the last 16 years in the Remington area. Prior to that they lived in London from 1978- 1981. They moved to the west side as they needed a flat lot with a single-story level home as Newell’s father was going to live with them, who at the time had a severe memory disease with limited mobility. Their first west side home was a two-story on a steep hill which led them to find a single-story home with a large garden area on .45 acre close to the old town area.
Janis and Newell first met on September 8, 1957 at John Muir Elementary school in Mrs. Emily’s Kindergarten class. Later they both worked together as crossing guards in 6th grade, dated in high school and college and were married September 8, 1973, the summer before the beginning of their senior year in college.They have been married 45 years and have two grown children, Julia Arnerich Drake, 36, is married to Mike Drake. Julia is an ER Trauma Manager, and her husband works in the MediCal fraud unit with the State of California. Their son, Anthony Arnerich, 34, is married to Laila. He is a former Cpl. USMC, and both now work in banking.
Janis received her undergraduate degree at San Francisco State University in 1977, received her Master’s in Education and a second Master’s Degree in Administration, both at St. Mary’s College. She was a teacher in SRVUSD, elementary school Vice Principal in Pleasanton, and Principal in Orinda. Janis is now retired and decided to work for a non-profit coaching teachers and principals mainly in the Oakland School District. Janis and Newell love their community, hiking locally and everywhere while traveling the world sometimes upwards of 10,000 ft. in elevation. When not traveling or volunteering, Arnerich enjoys following Cal Bears, Oakland A’s, Giants, 49ers and Warriors.
Some fun facts about their family is that all of them are very good cooks and enjoy unique foods and fresh items from their garden and occasionally some wine grapes from their small vineyard. Their family used to volunteer for 10 years at a cultural center in San Francisco to do catering for wedding and special events, one per month. Janis, Newell and their children worked together in the kitchen typically for 10-12 hours preparing buffets (an Arnerich specialty) and 5 course meals for 200 people. “We did this because the organization needed to pay for its new building and ran very short on fundraising. With one very experienced chef, a small group of members from the organization signed up as volunteers, and our head chef got us all well trained. We typically grossed $450,00 per year for 10 years. It was hard work, but a fun family experience.” Now the Arnerichs and their adult children all enjoy cooking for just a few friends.
Because of the type of work Newell’s firm has done over the years, it has given their family a wonderful opportunity to travel to many European countries together. As well, having an office in Hawaii has allowed their children to travel extensively throughout all the islands, and led to the Arnerichs eventually owning a timeshare in Princeville, Kauai. Most recently, Janis and Arnerich travelled to Sicily, Ireland and China. Like the play called “The kids are gone, the dog died, now what do we do?” Newell explains, “We have date nights, weekend getaways, and longer travel trips.” One of their weekly dates is to do a ‘walkabout’ old town Danville, stopping at three to four different restaurants to enjoy one course at each establishment. The Arnerich’s love living in their welcoming and friendly neighborhood with people always walking and many young children out and about. “The neighborhood is made up of people from very diverse backgrounds and careers, but all share the same feeling of loving the natural beauty of the Las Trampas open space on the west side, the cohesive neighborhood identity and feeling of camaraderie as we watch out for each other.”
Newell has a message for Danville Neighbors, “Danville is a special place to live, not only because it’s the safest community in California, but because of the neighbors who greet each other, look out for each other and occasionally lean in to help a troubled friend. All the while enjoying watching our children grow up and looking to the next generation to make their mark on the west side. A great place to live.”