City Clerk Lisette Chel-Walker, the most senior employee at city hall, said she will retire in December after 37 years of service to Laguna Beach.
The lack of an incumbent sets the stage for the first competitive city clerk election in at least 20 years. Two candidates have declared their intention to run for city clark — Ann Marie McKay, a retired U.S. Air Force captain, and Mariann Tracy, executive assistant to the city manger
“Hopefully, there’s someone who can get along with everyone equally,” Chel-Walker said.
The city clerk oversees municipal elections, acts as the custodian for city documents and meeting videos, tracks actions taken by the city council and commissions, manages public records requests, and often liaisons between community members and city staffers. Meanwhile state law mandates local agencies respond to every record request within 10 days. Those who don’t adequately respond risk being sued.
During this litigious era and in a city where residents often have resources to hire their own attorneys and consultants, a slight procedural misstep at city hall can potentially cost the taxpayers thousands if not millions of dollars.
Chel-Walker started at city hall as a cashier in the police department in 1983, handling all parking complaints and fines. She moved on to oversee the department’s parking system.
In 2008, Chel-Walker was appointed deputy city clerk and in 2012 was elected to replace retiring city clerk Martha Anderson.
Long-time resident and environmentalist Penny Elia described Chel-Walker as an exemplary liaison between the public and city staffers.
“A lot of city staff views the public as nothing but a problem and as most people will do, they avoid problems, not Lisette,” Elia said. “She embraces us and she gets it taken care of and I think a lot of that comes from her time at the police department.”
Elia noted that Chel-Walker routes her office phone to her private cell phone when she’s not in the office. She promptly returns calls or emails community members on her days off.
“She has an amazing talent and a wonderful heart and the city hasn’t tapped her resources enough,” Elia said.
As a former administrative assistant for Laguna Beach’s community development department, McKay was excited about the opportunity to get back to work serving Laguna Beach
“Because of the environment today, people are requesting records at a record rate,” McKay said. “I know our system could be improved to make things easier on the public and the city clerk.”
After graduating from ROTC, McKay received her Air Force commission. She worked as an acquisition program manager for the F-15 Eagle fighter jet and Delta II rocket.
After deciding to exit the service in 2006 she moved that same year to Laguna Niguel. She started working for the city of Laguna Beach in 2007.
Tracy is the voice residents hear when calling the city manager’s office to complain about their trash not being picked up, a bone-rattling pothole, and other pet peeves.
She joined the city in July 2013 as an administrative assistant to the director of public works. After a year and a half she transferred to the Community Services Department holding the same title. She’s been the City Manager John Pietig’s executive assistant since April 2018
“The city clerk’s office provides excellent and equal customer service to all residents which is something I pride myself on,” Tracy said in prepared statement.
Tracy said she already works with city councilmembers by preparing closed session agenda packets and maintaining records. She’s also taken notes for several council meetings when deputy city clerk Cheryl Baldridge was out of town.
This weekend she’s at a four-day training course in Riverside sponsored by the International Institute of Municipal Clerks to eventually qualify as a Certified Municipal Clerk.
She’s also a former Laguna Beach High Football Booster’s President.
Candidates for city offices can’t officially pull papers until July 13. The deadline to submit these candidacy forms is August 12.
Chel-Walker said she plans to stick around after the November election to help train her replacement, who will be sworn in Dec. 8.View Our User Comment Policy