Laguna Beach Assistant City Manager Christa L. Johnson is on deck to be the next city manager of Del Mar, if the City Council approves her employment contract at a meeting Monday, Jan. 13.
City Manager Scott Huth announced in a letter in June that he planned to retire in February after eight years as Del Mar’s No. 1 employee. Huth presided over a number of significant achievements, including construction of the city’s award-winning civic center and other major infrastructure projects.
Huth ran into trouble in 2017 when he called for an independent investigation and subsequent firing of 37-year employee Pat Vergne, the city’s former chief lifeguard and public services director. That decision led to a deep community rift, lawsuits and calls for Huth’s resignation. Instead, the City Council voted to keep their city manager and gave him a 2 percent raise and a 4 percent performance bonus.
Johnson comes to the position with more than 22 years of local government experience. Before moving to Laguna Beach in 2011, she worked in Northern California for the town of Windsor in Sonoma County and for the city and county of Alameda.
“I’m pleased that our new city manager comes with experience facing the challenges and opportunities of a coastal city,” said Del Mar Mayor Ellie Haviland in a city news release.
Johnson’s base annual salary will be $240,000 and she will get a monthly car allowance of $500 and a monthly cell phone/technology allowance of $150, according to an agreement expected to be approved Monday, Jan. 13. She also will receive an annual contribution of $10,000 into a deferred compensation plan, an annual consumer price index adjustment of up to 3 percent and performance bonuses of up to 4 percent.
Her first day on the job in Del Mar will be Feb. 12. A community reception will be held soon after she begins.
Del Mar is the smallest city in San Diego County, with about 4,400 people living in less than two square miles entirely west of Interstate 5.
— Phil Diehl is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune