Verna Rollinger, a long-time Laguna Beach city clerk and former councilmember, died from renal failure early Thursday. She was 77.
Rollinger served for 27 years as the Laguna Beach City Clerk. She was elected to the City Council in 2008 but was denied a second four-year term in 2012. She made another unsuccessful run for council in 2016.
“Verna Rollinger, original founder of Village Laguna, former City Clerk, City Council member, activist, environmental defender, animal lover and town treasure, will be deeply missed,” Village Laguna president Anne Caenn said Thursday.
As a 52-year resident of Laguna Beach, Rollinger’s involvement in civic affairs stretches back decades. She was a board member of Village Laguna, Inc. and felt strongly about preserving local historic resources.
Martha Anderson, who served as deputy city clerk under Rollinger and later succeded her, was speechless upon hearing news her friend of over 40 years had died.
“She literally turned my life around when she hired me as her deputy,” Anderson said. “I felt that she was a total inspiration. She absolutely loved Laguna Beach. This town was fantastically lucky to have her here.”
Last year, Rollinger joined with fellow long-time residents Ann Christoph, Johanna Felder, and Barbara Metzger in founding the Laguna Beach Historic Preservation Coalition, which has challenged the City’s revised historic Preservation Ordinance in Orange County Superior Court.
Rollinger was also a champion of environmental causes in Laguna Beach.
“All of those things prepare me to look at these issues with, if not fresh, then different eyes,” Rollinger said while campaigning for city council in 2016. “I don’t imagine there are too many people who understand how the city works, what the issues are and what the impediments are to resolving those things. I’m totally committed to doing this.”
Retired City Clerk Lisette Chel-Walker got to know Rollinger during her term as a city councilmember. Their friendship grew over the years as Rollinger requested and filed various documents at the City Clerk’s Office.
“I always respected her. You have to respect anyone in that type of position,” Chel-Walker said. “Verna was always an icon in the community, as a councilmember. She was always knowledgeable about things. She genuinely cared and never gave up. That was Verna.”
Rollinger stewarded a friendly culture at the City Clerk’s office that still persists, Councilmember Toni Iseman said.
“Verna was a city clerk who was so helpful to anyone who had questions. She really established the job and how important it is,” Iseman said.
Mayor Sue Kempf said the City Council and city employees will remember Rollinger’s legacy.
“Verna was the epitome of a dedicated public servant, serving the City of Laguna Beach for decades as City Clerk and also as a City Councilmember. As we mourn her passing, we recognize that her love for this City and commitment to serving the people of Laguna Beach will live on through all who knew her,” Kempf said in a prepared statement.
Rollinger is survived by her son, Victor Rollinger of San Diego.
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