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Whalen joins council race

Planning commissioner and former school board member decides to throw hat in the ring.

January 26, 2012|By Barbara Diamond
  • Robert J. Whalen
Robert J. Whalen

Planning Commissioner Robert J. Whalen has announced his candidacy for City Council.

"I am excited by the opportunity to run for City Council and believe that my community volunteer work, my career as a public finance lawyer, and my prior experience as a twice-elected school board member provide me with the knowledge, skill and expertise to be an effective council member," said Whalen, a 27-year resident of Laguna.

An active community volunteer and practicing attorney with expertise in municipal financing, Whalen joins Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger, former Councilman Steven Dicterow and Kathryn Doe as announced candidates in the November municipal election.

Mayor Jane Egly is soon expected to confirm her candidacy for reelection.

Whalen has served on the board of America Youth Soccer Organization and as president of the Laguna Beach Little League, the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach and SchoolPower, which raises funds for the schools.

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He served 10 years on the Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education, during which he spearheaded a voter-approved 2001 bond measure that raised millions to renovate the city's four schools.

Whalen has been a member of the city's Planning Commission and is in his third year of a four-year appointment.

"Being on the commission has been great training for me," Whalen said. "There was a lot to learn about land-use policies, issues related to the Downtown Specific Plan and zoning in Laguna Canyon. It's all been helpful to me to understand how land use works in the city."

Whalen began practicing law with Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth more than 22 years.

He graduated from Harvard in 1975 and earned his law degree from UC Berkeley in 1978.

He is married to Festival of Arts exhibitor Kirsten Whalen. The couple have three adult children: a daughter, Erika, and sons Andrew and Elliot.

"She's been through this before, and she's a trooper," Whalen said of his wife.

Kirsten Whalen reiterated what she had once written about him when he was honored by the Boys & Girls Club.

"Whatever he gets involved in, he does with all his heart and all his energy," she said.

Ultimately, others involved look to him for leadership.

"Coaching evolved into the Little League presidency," she said. "His interest in his children's schools led to many active years in SchoolPower, including chairing the 10K race and other fundraising campaigns, which eventually led to his tenure on the school board."

In a campaign letter to friends, Robert Whalen wrote, "Laguna has been great to us as a family and as a council member it will be my goal to ensure that Laguna has a bright future for many generations to come."

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