Council appoints slew of residents to commission, committee and board posts


The City Council on Tuesday appointed applicants for one board, two committees and two commissions.

Incumbents Dawn Knepper and Mimi Niebuhr, Karyn Philippsen and Terri Smith were appointed to two-year terms on the Personnel Board, which hears appeals pertaining to employee disciplinary action, dismissals, demotions, reductions in pay or suspensions. 

Knepper is a member of the Labor and Employment Section of the State Bar of California. Niebuhr served as an alternate to the board, starting in 2018. She has been a resident of Laguna Beach for 35 years. Philippsen is a founding President of Visit Laguna Beach and of Laguna Beach Sister Cities Association. She has also served as a board/staff facilitator in the hospitality industry and construction. Smith, who recently retired as a marketing programs manager, feels he now has the time to become involved in civic and community activities.

The appointees will decide amongst themselves which of the four will serve as the alternate.

Arts Commission

Incumbents Michael Ervin, Pat Kollenda, Suzanne S. Mellor and Adam Schwerner were among the nine applicants for the four open seats on the Arts Commission. All four were reappointed.

Ervin sits on the boards of the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra and Laguna College of Art & Design. He has been involved with LOCA, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, Laguna Art Museum and the Festival of Arts. Kollenda, who describes herself as a professional volunteer, has served as chair of the commission six times and has had her fingers in almost every artistic pie in Laguna. Mellor has been a member of the commission for five years and previously a member of the boards of the Laguna Playhouse and LAM. Schwerner is Director of Horticulture and Resort Enhancement at Disneyland Resort.

Housing and Human Services Committee

Incumbents Jheri St. James and Marcus Skenderian were reappointed to the Housing and Human Services Committee. Newcomers to the committee are Rebecca Apodaca, Sam Goldstein, Steve Kellenberg and Laura Sauers.

Apodaca’s family has been in Laguna since the 1920s. She has lived here since 1953. Apodaca has been associated with No Square Theatre and the Assistance League. She is a senior and disabled, and she understands the need of both groups, which are in purview of the committee.

Goldstein is an art patron and investor. He believes the committee needs more innovative ways to create more housing and to supply it faster to the community. 

Kellenberg worked with Orange County Mental Health Foundation projects to provide support facilities for the homeless and psychiatric and substance abuse patients. St. James has served two previous terms on the committee. Her goal is to help longtime residents, artists, workers and seniors to continue to live in Laguna and she wants to assist the local homeless. St. James volunteers for Lifelong Laguna at the Susi Q. Sauer is a licensed counselor and regularly works with individuals with immediate housing crises due to disaster or crime. Skenderian is a real estate broker. He has lived in Laguna for more than 40 years and been in business here for more than 20 years. 

Planning Commission

Incumbent Susan Whitin and Steve Goldman were selected from the 11 applicants for the two seats on the Planning Commission.

Goldman has spent 35 years in the hotel industry. He feels the challenge to the commission is to encourage responsible growth consistent with the City’s General Plan and to preserve the character of the town. Whitin is an urban designer and landscape architect. She has been a member of the commission since 2015. Prior to that, she served on the View Preservation and Restoration Committee. 

Emergency & Disaster Preparedness Committee

Incumbents David Horne, Charity Morsey, Sonny Myers and Lynda Olsen and newcomer Thomas Gibbs were appointed to the Emergency & Disaster Preparedness Committee. Shelly Benecke and Edward Mousally were appointed as alternates. 

Gibbs is a Red Flag Patrol member and intends to take the next available Community Emergency Response Team training. Horne, who lost his home in the 1993 fire, is the founder of the Greater Laguna Coast Fire Safety Council and has been a member of the EDPC committee since its inception. Morsey is a graduate of the CERT training and the Laguna Beach Police Citizens Academy and advisor and recorder for the EDPC. Myers is a member of the Laguna Beach CERT team and is responsible for CERT radio communications. Olsen is director of communications and public affairs for the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs. She is a graduate of Leadership Laguna and CERT training.

Bennecke chaired the Environmental Sustainability Committee and CERT training. 

Mousally’s interest in the committee dates back to his early career as an Emergency Medical Technician and a firefighter.