The hunt for a new top bureaucrat began after John Pietig announced plans to retire in June after working with the city for 20 years.
City council hired recruiting firm Bob Murray & Associates to help fill the role. The company has completed more than 60 successful recruitments of city managers across California in the past five years, according to a memo released by the city.
“This is one of the most important positions in the city, and hiring the recruiting firm will allow us to thoroughly evaluate both internal and external candidates for the city manager position,” Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen said in a statement. “We had an excellent experience with this recruiting firm on our recent search for the new general manager at the Water District and council is confident that this will be a well-run and comprehensive search.”
The city said the recruiting fees are expected to cost less than $30,000.
Of course, the cost to employ a new city manager would be significantly more. According to Transparent California’s most recent data, Pieteg earned a base salary of $264,668 in 2018. With other pay, benefits, and pension debts factored in, his total salary and pension amounted to $389,653.
Despite hiring the recruiting firm, the city council could already have a top contender for the job in its midst. The city’s assistant manager, Shohreh Dupuis, has been pegged as a great option by both Mayor Bob Whalen and Pietig.
“She’s fully integrated into the daily inner workings of the city and has the primary responsibility of our economic recovery program for COVID-19,” Whalen told the Laguna Beach Indy. “Over the last year, the city manager has been having her take over agenda preparation.”
Dupuis told The Epoch Times via email that she is “very interested” and would “be honored” to serve as Laguna Beach’s city manager.
“I have a passion for public service and am committed to the continued successful delivery of City services, projects and programs,” she said. “My career goal has been to become a city manager and after 30 years of working for municipal governments in a variety of management positions, I would welcome the opportunity to continue serving the people of our beautiful town in a new role as city manager.”
Councilmember Peter Blake also publicly supported Dupuis during a Jan. 26 council meeting.
“For the two years I’ve been on this city council, the best of the best signifies Shohreh Dupuis,” Blake said. “I look forward to the day she’ll replace our extremely competent city manager John Pietig and we will have the first female city manager in this city’s history.”
Before a final candidate is chosen, council will hold two zoom meetings for the public to provide input during the recruitment process.
Whalen said he hopes a final selection is made in May.