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Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf reflects on 2020 and optimistically looks ahead to the new year


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Sue Kempf, elected to the City Council in 2018, has been active in local affairs since moving to Laguna in 1999. Kempf’s volunteer activities have included serving on the View Preservation Task Force as well as co-chairing the Disaster/Emergency Preparedness Committee after graduating from the first Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training class. 

Kempf has also served three terms on the City’s Planning Commission, to which she brought a wealth of knowledge about software development and systems infrastructure, gained during her stint as an Executive Director for Verizon’s four primary data center locations in the western United States. 

In other words, Kempf’s business experience and volunteerism has provided her with the skills to meet a wide range of challenges. 

However, who could anticipate – or prepare for – what was to come early this year, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Turns out past Council decisions, as well as leadership this year, have certainly helped Laguna weather the storm, in Kempf’s view.

“As a Council member, I have been keeping a close eye on the community during the pandemic and working diligently on both tactical and strategic response plans to mitigate the impacts of the virus, where possible. During the summer months and into the fall, we had an inordinate number of visitors seeking outdoor activities in town.” 

Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf

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Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf

Delicate balance

Kempf notes that this influx of visitors occurred all over the state, particularly in popular hiking and beach areas. 

“It has been a delicate balance between keeping our residents safe by strongly encouraging the use of masks and social distancing, while keeping our town functioning, albeit in limited fashion,” she adds. 

“I thank Mayor Bob Whalen for his thoughtful, progressive leadership and for assuming the role as mayor for an unprecedented third term. The pandemic has added an unexpected layer to his workload and his many talents are serving us well as we move through this very difficult time.”

On the home front

Kempf says that from a personal perspective, the pandemic has provided her with time for reflection.

“Like many of us, I have enjoyed walking through previously unexplored neighborhoods, waving and nodding to one another, an acknowledgment that we are all in this together. There is nothing like a tragic situation to bring priorities into sharp focus. 

“Concern for my family and friends has been at the very top of my list of daily worries. As a news junkie, watching the real heroes of the pandemic, our healthcare workers, has been both inspiring and heartbreaking. My spouse is asthmatic so I am always on guard to avoid situations that might introduce exposure. I wear a mask every time I am in public and I encourage everyone to think of each other and mask up. It is a kindness that we extend to each other.”

Mayor Pro Sue and Cheryl

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Sue with her spouse Cheryl 

Good riddance to 2020

At midnight on December 31, it’s a given that the vast majority of us will be relieved to welcome in the new year. 

Kempf agrees. “I think most of us are happy to wave goodbye to 2020. I thank the community for their support and patience as we navigated unanticipated challenges this year. 

“Given we have a few vaccines in deployment, I am very optimistic about 2021. With good policy decision making and support from the Council, I believe our local economy will recover quickly once a large segment of the population is vaccinated. Prior councils had the foresight to ensure we have more than double the required reserves which has served us well during the pandemic. 

“Fortunately, the preponderance of our reserve is intact, tapped only this week to offer support for our local business community and residents in need.” 

Looking ahead to 2021 

Kempf echoes Mayor Bob Whalen’s words: “Reserves are for a rainy day and it is raining.” Once the dust settles early next year, she believes, the Council will have a pretty clear view of any budget implications and projected local economic performance for 2021. 

“In my view, the pandemic has highlighted a few areas for ongoing Council consideration next year, in particular: (1) allocation of more funds for trash collection, beach patrols and issuance of parking tickets, (2) increased penalties for littering and open containers (in progress), (3) continued permitting of outdoor dining throughout the town as residents have expressed overwhelming support, (4) making the Forest Avenue Promenade a permanent feature of our downtown, and (5) addressing one of the chronic Achilles heels in Laguna Beach, parking.”

Mayor Pro Tem Sue and Sheryl with dog

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Sue and Cheryl at home with their dog – looking ahead to 2021

“We are a very resilient community and I have been so impressed as residents supported our nonprofits, local business, the artist community, and one another. I ask the community for their continued patience as we look forward to the conclusion of the pandemic and the bright future ahead of us.”


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In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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