Del Mar parts ways with city manager


After a series of closed session meetings over the past few weeks, the Del Mar City Council unanimously voted Feb. 16 to terminate City Manager Christa L. (“CJ”) Johnson, who held the position for about a year.

Christa L. Johnson
Christa L. Johnson
(Courtesy of the City of Del Mar)

The city announced two weeks ago, Friday, Feb. 5, that Johnson had been placed on paid administrative leave. Administrative Services Director Ashley Jones is now the interim city manager.

No information was publicly released about the reasons for the decision. But because Johnson was terminated with no cause, she will receive a lump sum payment equal to six months of her $240,000 annual salary as well as six more months of health benefits, based on the terms of her contract.

Johnson had been the assistant city manager in Laguna Beach before arriving in Del Mar. She was selected by the City Council in January 2020 to replace outgoing City Manager Scott Huth, and had only been on the job for about a month when the COVID-19 pandemic began causing business closures and event cancellations.

Del Mar Mayor Terry Gaasterland said in a statement that Johnson “skillfully led the organization with competence and the highest integrity.”

“As a new Mayor, I am grateful for CJ’s guidance as she worked with me and the City Council to develop policies, prioritize competing needs, and respond to a myriad of tough issues,” she said. “I know that I speak on behalf of the entire City Council when I say she will be successful in her future endeavors. We wish her well.”

The statement also said that neither Johnson nor anyone from the city will be commenting further.

City Attorney Leslie Devaney said during the council’s public meeting that over the next month the council will “develop and identify goals and objectives during this interim period for a future city manager.”