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Max Weinberg Is On The Drums And The Delray Beach Planning Board

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Wilkine Brutus
Google Meet Screenshot
Max Weinberg

In the 1970s, when Max Weinberg was touring with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band, he said it was always a treat to cruise down to the Sunshine State. The northeast winters were “brutal,” but the travel south also satiated his hunger for sightseeing architecture and real estate development.

“I've appeared at planning boards in Los Angeles, Arizona — Phoenix. Connecticut. New York City. Several towns in New Jersey,” Weinberg said.

But he and his wife felt the most comfortable in an oceanside house within the “cute little town”of Delray Beach.

“We love living here. We love the vibe, the diversity of it, the artistic element that exists here,” Weinberg said. “The cultural element that draws from a 100 years of history even before it was even a named municipality.”

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Weinberg went from a drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band to a seat on a Delray Beach planning and zoning board in Palm Beach County. Last month, Delray Beach City Commission voted unanimously to appoint Weinberg to a two-year term, a recommendation he says was made by Commissioner Juli Casale. He filled her vacancy.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and former music director for The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien, says consistency in one craft or job helps develop transferable skills. It’s a message he says he taught his children — Ali Weinberg Rogin, a PBS NewsHour foreign affairs producer, and his son, Jay Weinberg, the drummer for Slipknot.

Weinberg says past experiences in planning meetings can be summed up with an analogy.

“I always knew the best thing I did as people would tell me, ‘You know Max, the best thing you do on the drums is chopping wood” and chopping wood on the drums is to be that white line in the center of the road that keeps everybody grounded.”

Weinberg spoke with WLRN about what persuaded him to join the board and his desire for public service.

Here's an excerpt of that conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity:

WLRN: Why did you join the Delray Beach planing board?

WEINBERG: I'd be at a gathering or, you know, my work with the historical society here or even dinners with my developer friends. You know, we get into conversations about where the town and it had been, what the town grew into and where it's going in the future. And I had an opinion.

So some of my friends on several different sides of issues said, you're really pretty knowledgeable about this stuff you should, you know, you should think about joining the city in a public way — you know, you obviously feel strong about maintaining the character of Delray Beach specifically, but you're also not opposed to new visions and developments that indicate progress and attention to not so much where the city is at the moment, but where it will be.

And I read a quote once. It's very apropos of that posture that a man, or a woman in that case, plants the seed of the tree, knowing that they will never be able to enjoy the shade it eventually will provide. That, to me, is the essence of a lot of my reason and my appointment to the planning and zoning board.

What sets Delray Beach’s planning and zoning apart from places like New Jersey, for example?

The issues are the same. How are you going to grow the town? Little Richard had a great line on "The Dick Cavett Show." “A man can get what he wants and lose what he had.” To us, that was a hell of a statement. As a planning and zoning board member, you’re always balancing the need for what you and the town wants to see happen but having to be careful that you don’t lose what you have.

Do you think the pandemic will continue to affect real estate and development? What are some of the challenges that you see so far?

The only thing that is constant is change. We know things are going to change. It's how you deal with the changes. And are you ready to deal with them? And, you know, a lot of that can be done with quantifying what you're up against. Another thing Bruce once said is a record is what, he once asked the question, "Why is it a record? Why do they call it a record?" He called it a record, he said, because it lasts forever. It's a record of what you did. So you put it out. You've got to make sure it's the best, absolute best you could do at that time.

And that's why they call it a record. So that's what I'm trying to do in all areas of my life, whether it's playing music or serving on the planning and zoning board. I'm trying to make balance and decisions that are backed up by both intelligence gathered, native intelligence, common sense and research.

Wilkine Brutus is a reporter and producer for WLRN and a guest faculty member at the Poynter Institute. The South Florida native produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs.