LB Chat Publisher’s Open Letter To 2021 City Council

January 19, 2021

Dear Mayor Whalen and City Council Members:

Happy New Year. As the council moves forward in appointing a new city manager this
year, I ask that a professional recruitment firm be hired to conduct an open and extensive
recruitment to fill this important leadership position. Based upon city records, in
2010, Murray & Associates was hired to handle the recruitment process when CM John
Pietig was appointed. In 2012, this same firm contributed to the recruitment guideline
document below. It’s well worth a read. – Recruitment Guidelines for Selecting a Local Government Administrator.pdf

As a longtime resident, I am not convinced that we currently have an internal successor
pool to fill this position that would be supported by the majority of residents. We have
the opportunity to find a city manager with the type of leadership, interpersonal skills
and personality that city employees, residents and businesses desire and deserve. In fact,I would like to suggest that the council ask for some public input on the important attributes of a new city manager to use in their decision making and conduct an outsourced confidential city employee satisfaction survey to identify internal cultural issues that might exist that could provide valuable insight to the incoming administrator. Here’s an example of an employee survey that I found quite impressive.

I have personally participated in government employee surveys of this type and the results often surprise city leaders. Also, below is an article titled “It Starts With Civility: Elected Officials’ Role in attracting and Retaining Employees” that speaks to government recruitments, civility and leadership within council chambers. I believe this information critical to achieving positive engagement between public officials and constituents for a healthy and harmonious community.

Since 2018, we have documentation that clearly reflects our city having respect and civility issues that has consumed our civic environment and continues to divide us.
Much time and money has been lost due to a high level of discourse between certain
council members and the public. This is a good article written by two California city
managers who understand the intricacies involved in government recruitment and retention
and the importance of finding a strong administrator who listens and can implement
and execute ideas with the support of council members and the public.

Thank you for your time and consideration. You all have a big responsibility to the
community and I trust that you will take the utmost care in finding the right city manager
to unite and move us forward. Thank you for all that you do for Laguna.

MJ Abraham
LB Resident

Note: Here’s a copy of my first LTE on this subject. It has been distributed to local media
and will be posted on social media outlets as well. It was published today January
19, 2021 in Stunews.

Include Residents in the Process How disappointing to discover that meetings regarding upcoming CalTrans work in South Laguna were not (until now) publicly held. I hope that the city will not make this mistake when it comes to recruiting a new city manager. An open recruitment process will boost confidence and trust in our local government.

Combined, Ken Frank and John Pietig will have served Laguna for 51 years. This powerful
position is pivotal for the city budget, overseeing projects of all types, coordinating with all outside agencies, and working well with staff and council. I encourage residents to get involved in this next chapter of a city manager and start generating ideas of the type of person we would like to see as our next city manager. The position requires strong leadership and management skills to navigate the often politically charged decisions that inevitably arise.

Laguna has a great climate, attractive compensation and beneCits like Fridays off. For a city its size, this job will be a compelling opportunity, likely generating inquiries from some of the best-run cities in the country. I hope that the council will take its time, include residents and choose carefully.

MJ Abraham
Laguna Beach Resident

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