I heard Mayor Whalen’s exciting news on the April 8 Mornings with Ed radio show that the recruiter for a new City Manager has lined up a lot of strong candidates. Since the City Council will be interviewing these candidates, I thought it might be useful to summarize the top vote-getters on residents’ wish lists from the March 6, March 11 and March 16 listening survey sessions run by the recruiter, Gary Phillips, since these will be the traits they will be seeking.
The first place for wants was tied with two-thirds of the residents’ votes:
Transparency: Residents would like to see a City Manager (CM) who keeps residents informed on his or her decisions/actions and city staff’s actions. Some residents felt that reports from outside consultants and city staff were biased toward what the CM wanted them to say.
A positive work environment for city staff: Callers wanted a CM who was adept at developing staff for higher positions so that the City didn’t continue to be a place where staff left to get more training at another city. For example, the current assistant city manager, Shohreh Dupuis, has been mainly responsible for public works and the arts commission, and it would have been useful for her to have been trained on infrastructure (sewers, utilities, safety) and finance. Callers said Laguna should also look for a CM that people want to work for.
The second place for the skills most wanted in a City Manager was just one vote less than the first two, and was also a tie vote:
Opposing Factions: A city manager who could navigate and mediate between the town’s opposing factions versus the appearance of aligning with one faction in town.
Fiscal Responsibility and Accountability: A city manager who is adept at finance and can come up with creative economic plans that don’t depend on tourism as the main economic model. Some callers also emphasized a CM who could effectively manage the costs of visitors so that residents and the City don’t have to bear all the costs.
The third-place winner for skill sets to seek in a new CM was also a tie, and received only two less votes than the first-place winners:
Trustworthy: Callers want a CM with a commitment to caring for the community and all stakeholders in the City with respect and diplomacy. They wanted to see a balanced focus on all neighborhoods, not just downtown.
Laguna’s unique environment: Residents want a city manager who appreciates the unique character and environment (canyon, beaches, creeks) of Laguna. They would like to see a city manager who loves Laguna as much as the residents do versus someone who just sees the CM position as a job.
Deborah Laughton, Laguna Beach
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