“I’ll never forget Ken’s first staff meeting,” said Purcell, who was acting chief at the time. “The first thing he said was ‘I don’t care much for Southern California,’ and I thought, well that is number five in a couple of years.”
Today, Frank is second in longevity for city managers in the state, exceeded only by the city manager of Lakewood, Purcell said.
Frank has outlasted numerous local elected officials who were endorsed on the condition they would oust him, only to end up praising Frank’s commitment to the city.
“He always supported the council,” Purcell said. “He could count to three.”
That doesn’t mean his style of management made him friends.
“He is not a glad-hander,” Purcell said. “But when he told me ‘good job’ that meant more to me than from a person who is always praising you.”
The city manager in Laguna is the council’s only employee — all other hiring and firing is done by the city manager. Frank runs a tight ship, and he has a temper, rarely seen in public. Purcell recalled one time when Frank told then-Public Works Director Terry Brandt to remove a large tree.
“The first thing in the morning here comes Mayor [Phyllis] Sweeney and she told Terry to quit right now and he did,” said Purcell. “Ken wasn’t around at the time and when he came back, the tree was still there. He exploded.”
Frank informed Brandt that nobody gives orders to city employees but him. The tree was gone the next day, Purcell said.
“Ken is fiercely protective of the employees and the department heads,” said retired Police Capt. Danell Adams.
“As a subordinate, I always found him accessible, despite his heavy schedule,” Adams said. “And his financial ethics are exemplary. He was tight, very tight about gratuities. I once sent him a small gift. He thanked me, but he sent it back.