New city manager makes history as first woman to lead Laguna Beach City Hall

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Laguna Beach City Manager Shohreh Dupuis started in her new role on June 12. Courtesy of Laguna Beach

The Dupuis Administration has officially started.

City Manager Shohreh Dupuis changed offices Saturday, becoming the first woman to assume the top job at Laguna Beach City Hall in its nearly 94-year history.

Dupuis is only the third person to hold the Laguna Beach city manager position in the last 41 years. She joined Laguna Beach in 2016 as the assistant city manager and director of public works.

Monday was her first day behind the city manager’s desk.

“It felt fantastic and I am overwhelmed with the outpouring of kind words and support I’ve received from community members and city staff,” Dupuis wrote in an email. “I am so excited to serve the people of our beautiful town and honored to have been selected for this role.”

Following the City Council’s unanimous approval of her contract on May 4, Dupuis has largely taken over public-facing duties from her predecessor, John Pietig. She’ll have little, if any, downtime in her first week at the helm, considering the City Council is scheduled Tuesday to consider approving the 2021-22 Fiscal Year Budget, which totals about $122 million.

With Gov. Gavin Newsom set to reopen the state’s economy on Tuesday, Laguna Beach business owners are set to welcome crowds returning to beaches over the Fourth of July weekend. Then comes the reopening of the Festival of Arts, Pageant of the Masters, and Sawdust Art Festival.

“I also will be working closely with City departments and festivals to make sure we are prepared and ready for our first post-COVID summer,” Dupuis said.

During her first 90 days in office, Dupuis plans to listen and learn through meetings with residents, organizations, and city staffers.

“My first priority is to set a strategic agenda of goals and objectives for the City after conducting a series of comprehensive engagement and satisfaction surveys,” Dupuis wrote in an email. “These surveys will include our residents, business community, and entire City staff and will be done through a reputable nationwide survey firm that routinely serves municipal government organizations.”

Dupuis’s ascension has not been without controversy among a faction of city hall observers.

After hearing complaints from residents about a pre-determined succession, the City Council contracted an executive recruiting firm, Bob Murray & Associates, to aid in the nationwide search for a new city manager. This effort cost the taxpayers up to $30,000 and produced five external candidates who were interviewed by the City Council. They were ultimately unsuccessful in overcoming Dupuis.

“We have built a high-performing organization that is committed to serving our residents and community,” Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf said in an April press release. “By selecting Shohreh Dupuis as our next City Manager, we not only get the best candidate for the position, but we also ensure a seamless transition as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic while maintaining our focus on the quality of life for our residents.”

Pietig was not at city hall for his final day of employment on June 11, a city staffer said. He declined an exit interview with the Independent earlier this month.

The City Council will hold its first meeting with Dupuis as the city manager at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

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  1. Congratulations to our new City Manager. With Ms. Kempf and Ms. Dupuis at the helm we will see Laguna Beach come back to life.

    While I can not speak for all students at Laguna Beach High School, as one who attends each council meeting, I believe this is a very good thing.

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