This year the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce Award for Lifetime Achievement is going to Doug Filipponi. Doug has been an Atascadero resident since the age of 7, and in all his time in the area, he has created multiple businesses and helped the community in some really big ways.

“I had to have her (Julie Matthews of the Chamber) repeat it because it was definitely an honorable shock. To say the least. I was thinking, ‘Oh God, do you guys know something I don’t know? Is this it? Am I done?,'” Doug said with a laugh. “Of course, it’s an honor to receive the award. It’s an honor to be considered for it and as far as the community and my 62 years of being here in Atascadero and my whole life as a North County resident. I was born in Paso Robles and moved here when I was 7 years old. Pretty much didn’t get too far from where the birthplace was. But it’s always been, Atascadero’s been the hometown.”

Growing up as one of Ross Filipponi’s kids, Doug was raised on the family dairy in South Atascadero, off the beaten path. He attended school in the Atascadero Unified School District, starting at Santa Rosa Primary School, and then going to what used to be Lewis Avenue before it became the junior high, and then he attended Atascadero High School.


“We had to ride to school in a bus. We were never really town kids because as soon as we got out of school we would go back out to the dairy,” Doug added. “We were ranch kids and had been raised on a ranch from the day we were born. We were a little different from the other kids in town.” 

He headed off to college at Cal Poly after that and when he was getting ready to graduate, that was when his future business partner, Ned Thompson approached him with the idea to start their own well-drilling company. 

“Ned Thompson and I were friends since we were 10 years old. We were basically out deer hunting in south Atascadero and just talking about, ‘what are you gonna do when you get out of school?’ He had just recently went into partnership with his father. His father passed away and he had this other drilling rig that was his dad’s that he was running. Got another one. We just decided that night that we’d start a partnership on January first of 1974, and that was in September/October of 1973, and that we would start this company. [We would] see if we could make a go of being in the well-drilling business,” added Doug of what would become Filipponi and Thompson Drilling Inc.

Doug added that he would never forget his mom’s dismay after he went to Cal Poly for four years and then ended up becoming a well-drilling contractor. Though he got his degree in agricultural business management, which he’s used almost every day since starting his well-drilling business 50 years ago.

“Once we started our well-drilling company, we located in Atascadero and our kids were raised here, grandkids are still going to school here. It’s been a lifelong relationship,” Doug said.

Even though Doug and Ned started out with Filipponi and Thomas Drilling Inc. as their first business, they slowly moved into agriculture. They grew hay and vegetables and in 1989, they joined the wine business by growing their own grapes. They planted about 300 acres of wine grapes from 1989 to 2000 and then joined up with a couple other partners, bought the vineyard next door, and continued to be a part of the business through the 2000s, while still drilling water wells.

“During that time period, of course, we raised our children and they went to school and got married. They’re all pretty much local. Still here, all the kids,” Doug said of his kids and wife Kathy.

Doug said that without both of their wives working when he and Ned started Filipponi and Thompson Drilling Inc. He added that they would have probably never made it otherwise and that he’ll always be grateful for Kathy, who is his No. 1 partner in all of this. They’ve been married for 51 years.

In 2001, Doug became co-owner of Santa Margarita Ranch with Rob Rossi and Karl Wittstrom. And in the meantime Doug also started Ancient Peaks Winery in 2006.

“I have a rule. I don’t do anything unless it’s fun,” Doug added.

On top of all of his business ventures, Doug has also been a part of the Rotary Club for 40 years as he joined in 1984. He’s also been a part of the Chamber of Commerce since he can remember.

“I was president of the Rotary Club in ’96, ’97. I served all that time,” Doug said. “I’m less present now because I can tell you the wine business takes you everywhere. I was in Dallas, I was in D.C., I’m gonna be in Maui. I travel an awful lot for the wine business.”

Doug also had a hand in helping Donn Clickard create the Atascadero Greyhound Foundation, now known as LIGHTHOUSE Atascadero. He said that getting the all-weather track built at Atascadero High School and helping create the LIGHTHOUSE program for promoting a clean and sober life to youth has been a highlight of his time in Atascadero.

“I’m just really grateful and humbled to receive it [the award] and I appreciate being a member of this community.”


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