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From Canyon To Cove: A frank and funny sendoff for the city manager

December 09, 2010|By Cindy Frazier
  • Laguna Beach City Manager Ken Frank, right, stands with Randy Hatfield, the man who played Frank in Lagunatics the last few years, at Frank's retirement party.
Laguna Beach City Manager Ken Frank, right, stands with… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

Those seeking a glimpse into the future of Laguna Beach under incoming city manager John Pietig might want to take a clue from outgoing City Manager Ken Frank's taste in music.

On Monday night, John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" rang out as several hundred people — nothing less than a "Who's Who of Laguna Beach" — crowded into [seven degrees] to wish Frank well and thank him for his 30-plus years of service. That is apparently one of Frank's favorite all-time tunes, and Denver, an early environmentalist and conservationist, is one of his heroes, according to those who know him well.

Since Pietig is Frank's personal choice as successor, it could be surmised that the two shared some John Denver over a glass of their favorite beverage at some point or other. But whether Pietig — who isn't part of the John Denver generation, after all — is more of a Garth Brooks man, or maybe favors Faith Hill or opera, remains to be seen.

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During the evening, which drew almost all the heavy-hitters from city hall to development to the arts, Frank greeted guests warmly. Organizers Councilwoman Jane Egly and Mayor Elizabeth Pearson put together a display of snapshots and photos from Frank's early years as Laguna Beach's youngest-ever city manager, at the tender age of 35. Some snapshots showed the young city manager in hiking togs out in the wilderness. One showed a grinning Frank wearing a baseball cap with the words "Bite Me." We sensed a theme, and we were right.

Most agreed that, to succeed as city manager in Laguna Beach, one needs a tough skin — horsehide would not be too thick to protect the chief executive from the slings and arrows of critics.

Councilwoman Verna Rollinger, never shy about taking Frank to task, was the first to offer her thanks "for all the open space you brought to Laguna Beach and for your wonderful taste in music." At least John Denver is something they can agree on.

Egly asked, "Why has Ken Frank been city manager for 30 years? Because he's the best."

Mayor Pro Tem Toni Iseman acknowledged that Frank had been in the target sights of more than one City Council candidate.

"Half the people on this council got elected to fire Ken, and 30 years later we say 'We're not worthy,'" she said.

Mayor Pearson, a longtime friend, gave him credit for having a sparkling personality.

"He's really funny, a very bright wit," she said. "He always has our back, not just the council's but the town's."

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