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Editorial: Welcoming new city manager

November 04, 2010

It's a big week of change in Laguna Beach, but ironically, not because of the elections. All three incumbents, Kelly Body, Toni Iseman and Elizabeth Pearson, sailed to victory as the lone challenger, Emanuel Patrascu, failed to convince voters that the "change" mantra sweeping the country was needed in Laguna.

Congratulations to the re-elected councilmembers who can pick up where they left off on many issues of importance in the city, including marine protection, skateboarding, the village entrance, and the vital issue of helping businesses weather the seemingly endless economic mailaise. The Laguna Beach Board of Education also remains intact, having not even gone to the ballot box since no one filed to run against the incumbents.

The big news this week is the appointment of a new city manager. Not unexpectedly, John Pietig, the assistant city manager, has been promoted to fill the very big shoes of 30-year manager Ken Frank. Frank is surely one of the leading city managers in the state, having put the city in the enviable position of not having to curtail services or lay off employees despite some very major challenges over the past few years, not the least of which was a very expensive restoration of Bluebird Canyon. He deserves a gold medal for that feat alone.

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Pietig has been groomed for the position by Frank, who as everyone knows is exacting and methodical in all he does. As Frank's protégé, we can expect Pietig to follow closely his mentor's example of fiscal prudency and carefully thought out plans, at least until he gets his sea legs.

Pietig has honed his skills by handling some difficult and emotional issues, including the thorny one of how to handle the homeless. He has shown himself to be not only thoughtful but also caring in taking a direction that helps street dwellers to live better and also provides welcome relief for residents and business owners along the beachfront parks where homeless people tend to congregate. Pietig also shepherded the Heisler Park renovation, a highly successful project which is on the way to completion; the relocation of the City Maintenance Yard to the ACT V parking lot; and refurbishing the city's aging sewer system.

Pietig has an excellent background apart from his 9 ½ years with the city of Laguna Beach. He was the budget director for the city of Riverside, an enormous municipality with a budget about 10 times that of Laguna's. It's no wonder he was the pick out of more than 100 applicants.

He is also a Laguna Beach resident and his children attend local schools. He is clearly the candidate with the most to offer the city and we wish him well in his new position.

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