Assistant city manager wants Laguna Beach City Hall’s top job

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Laguna Beach Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis. Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Laguna Beach’s assistant city manager said she’s “very interested” in applying for the city’s top job, which is expected to change hands in June following the retirement of City Manager John Pietig.

Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis wrote in a brief statement to the Independent on Tuesday that she would feel honored if given the chance to serve the community as the next City Manager. Ultimately, the Laguna Beach City Council will decide who is selected for the position.

“I have a passion for public service and am committed to the continued successful delivery of City services, projects and programs,” Dupuis wrote in an email. “My career goal has been to become a City Manager and after 30 years of working for municipal governments in a variety of management positions, I would welcome the opportunity to continue serving the people of our beautiful town in a new role as City Manager.”

If appointed, Dupuis would be Laguna Beach’s first female city manager and would only be the third person to hold the job in the last 41 years. City officials have not announced whether they plan to hire an executive recruiter to conduct a nationwide search.

In July 2019, Pietig said at a City Council meeting that Dupuis would be a serious candidate for city manager. At that time, councilmembers approved a 10% salary increase totaling $25,000 per year to retain Dupuis after other cities tried to recruit her for city manager positions. It’s important for an incoming city manager to be familiar with Laguna Beach’s unusual characteristics as a city of 23,000 residents with its own public safety agencies, unique geography, and a passionate constituency, Pietig said.

“I think it helps to have worked here and gained that experience before you become a city manager,” he said.

Pietig worked for 10 years as a Laguna Beach assistant city manager before being promoted to succeed his former boss Ken Frank.

To help her relocate from her former Anaheim Hills home, Laguna Beach agreed to co-
own a local house costing up to $850,000 and offering a 20-year direct loan of up to $450,000 to help her finance her half. The total cost to the city in 2016 was estimated at $1.3 million, Before joining Laguna Beach in April 2016, Dupuis was Irvine’s deputy public works director. She has served Orange County municipal and regional agencies for more than 28 years. Before being hired by Irvine in 2008, Dupuis was Anaheim’s transit manager and the Orange County Transportation Authority’s manager of commuter rail and local programs for Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax that funds freeway and road improvements.

During her time as the public works director, Dupuis oversaw numerous infrastructure projects including the Village Entrance, improvements to Coast High-way, and establishing assessment districts to underground utility lines. She recently spearheaded the city’s installation of the Promenade at Forest Avenue to provide outdoor dining to down-town restaurants hit hard by the pandemic. Figures central to Laguna Beach governance in recent years speak highly of Dupuis.

Former Mayor Kelly Boyd agreed Dupuis would be a strong candidate for city manager based on seeing everything she accomplished during his years on the City Council.

“She worked well with the County. I think whenever she was assigned a task she really completed it,” Boyd said. “When it came time to make a presentation about things. She did an excellent job.”

Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold, former executive director of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, said when Dupuis works on a project and doesn’t know the answer she finds it quickly.

“She puts her heart and soul into her job, especially when our residents are passionate about a project or issue,” Hornbuckle-Arnold said. Even when they don’t agree on an issue, Hornbuckle-Arnold believes Dupuis fairly vets all options.

Mayor Bob Whalen also said Thursday that Dupuis would be a strong candidate. “She’s fully integrated into the daily inner workings of the city and has the primary responsibility of our economic recovery program for COVID-19,” Whalen said. “Over the last year, the city manager has been having her take over agenda preparation.”

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  1. With all due respect Daniel, in my opinion and past city government employment public communications experience this article reads like a city issued press release. One-sided narrative and questionable comments. For those paying attention, the community-at-large are expressing opinions and concerns about the CM recruitment process. Here’s my opinion which has been published and posted to social media. There are many other residents speaking out as well. Maybe take the time to interview a few? Thank you. MJ

    Include Residents in the Process

    How disappointing to discover that meetings regarding upcoming CalTrans work in South Laguna were not (until now) publicly held.

    I hope that the city will not make this mistake when it comes to recruiting a new city manager. An open recruitment process will boost conCidence, transparency and trust in our local government.

    Combined, Ken Frank and John Pietig will have served Laguna for 51 years. This powerful position is the liaison between politics and the day-to-day administration of city services. It is pivotal to the creation of our city budget and the management of our resources. Responsibilities involve hiring qualiCied staff to ensure that city services run smoothly and efCiciently, managing a respectful and healthy work environment, overseeing all types of city projects, acting representative with government agencies, committee members, community leaders/groups and serving the agendas of city council members.

    I encourage residents to get involved in this next chapter of a city manager. Start generating ideas of the skill set and type of person we would like to see in our next city manager/CEO and share them with council members. The position requires strong leadership, management, communication and negotiation skills to navigate the often politically charged decisions that inevitably arise. The individual chosen will be key in guiding our future and achieving community harmony.
    Laguna has a village vibe and great climate, attractive compensation and beneCits like Fridays off. For a city its size, this job will be a compelling opportunity, likely generating interest from some of the top city managers of best-run cities in the country. I hope that the council will conduct an open recruitment, include residents and choose carefully.

    MJ Abraham
    South Laguna Resident
    Founder: lagunabeachchat.com

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