Council appoints new city manager

By SARA HALL

City Council unanimously appointed a new city manager this week.

Councilmembers voted 5-0 on Tuesday (April 9) to hire Dave Kiff as Laguna Beach’s top city staffer.

The $315,000 contract will be for three years with two, one-year extensions. Kiff will start his new position on May 6.

As a city manager, he should listen more than talk, so Tuesday may be the most they hear from him, Kiff joked. He’s honored for the council’s support and is looking forward to getting started.

He lived in Laguna Beach for about 22 years and he’s excited to be back, Kiff noted. He spent most of that time working as city manager for Laguna’s coastal neighbor, Newport Beach.

“(I) drove up the road and worked, and every night I came home here and there’s a reason for that: Because it’s a very special place. It’s a place that I always felt embraced and comfortable and part of the community. I just think it’s so terrific at this point in my life to be able to work here,” Kiff said.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Newly appointed Laguna Beach City Manager Dave Kiff

Several councilmembers noted Kiff’s time as a former Laguna Beach resident.

“Dave, welcome home,” said Councilmember Bob Whalen. “You certainly know our community and the essence of it and the importance of it.”

They’re all looking forward to working with Kiff and moving the organization ahead, Whalen added.

“We have a lot of ambitious goals and objectives, and it takes a good leader to implement those,” he said.

While Newport Beach is a very different city compared to Laguna, there are some similarities, Mayor Pro Tem Alex Rounaghi pointed out: Complex issues, dealing with the California Coastal Commission, residents who are highly engaged and have high expectations.

Rounaghi noted Kiff’s time in Newport Beach while the city hall and civic center complex was constructed. His experience with that project will be helpful as Laguna Beach moves forward with a facilities master plan, he commented.

“You don’t really need to embrace the uniqueness of Laguna Beach and understand how special it is to be city manager, but I think it’s a bonus,” Rounaghi said. “I’m also just so optimistic about what the future will bring.”

Choosing a city manager is one of the most important decisions they make as a council, Rounaghi said, and he’s grateful Kiff is willing to take on the job.

“We can set all the policies and priorities that we want to come up with, but really none of those are going to happen without a city manager who can implement them,” he said. “It’s hard to imagine that there’s anyone better prepared to hit the ground running than Dave Kiff.”

Mayor Sue Kempf noted that she had coffee with Kiff, who has already reached out to councilmembers and department heads even though he’s not working yet.

“I was impressed by that,” she said.

He’s a really good fit for Laguna Beach, Kempf added, and they’re going to work well together.

They are fortunate to have someone who has lived in Laguna Beach for quite some time and was integrated into the community and understands Laguna Beach’s values, Councilmember Mark Orgill said. On top of that, Kiff has the experience of running a complex coastal city like Newport Beach.

“I just don’t see how it could get any better than that,” he said.

They’ve had a highly trained and skilled interim city manager with Sean Joyce for the past six months, Weiss said, and now they’ll have a reputed master of coastal city management.

“I’m happy for our Laguna Beach community and I’m looking forward to working with and learning from Mr. Kiff,” he said.

Council engaged in a formal competitive executive recruitment process over the last several months to select a qualified candidate to fill the position, Director of Human Resources and Risk Management Aggie Nesh said. Based on this process, Kiff was identified as the candidate who is best qualified and able to serve as city manager.

Kiff previously worked in state legislature and other city and county jurisdictions, Nesh said. Most notably, he spent 20 years at Laguna’s coastal neighbor to the north, Newport Beach, including nearly a decade as the city manager. After Newport, he was interim executive director of Association of California Cities-Orange County and then moved to Sonoma County where he led the homeless services division.

The city manager will receive an annual salary of $315,000, with an annual cost of living adjustment equivalent to the percentage change in the May Consumer Price Index for urban wage earners and clerical workers, as calculated by the Department of Industrial Relations, up to 4%. He will receive the same benefits as other management employees. Kiff will also receive: Deferred compensation of $30,500 per year, to be adjusted annually to align with the IRS maximum permitted amount and prorated for partial years of employment; monthly housing stipend of $1,000 (subject to certain provisions); vehicle allowance of $500 per month; cell phone stipend of $80 per month; a laptop from the city and other benefits.

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Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Laguna.


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