Assistant City Manager Johnson gets a promotion – in Del Mar

The Del Mar City Council confirmed Monday that Laguna Beach Assistant City Manager Christa Johnson would be their new city manager. 

Johnson has been Assistant City Manager in Laguna for 8 1/2 years, replacing John Pietig when he succeeded Ken Frank in 2011.

“It is a great loss for Laguna Beach, but a great gain for Del Mar,” said Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow.

“Christa did a fantastic job here and she will be missed.”

Johnson, who is married and has two children, said she does not plan to give up her home in Laguna.

“I very much enjoyed working with members of the business community and environmental groups and my fellow city employees,” said Johnson.

Assistant City Manager Christa Johnson

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Christa Johnson is the new City Manager of Del Mar

She moves on to Del Mar with more than 22 years of experience in government. Before coming to Laguna Beach, she held the position of Assistant City Manager in the Northern California city of Windsor. Prior to that, she served as assistant to the city manager of Alameda from 1977 to 2006; management analyst of Alameda County from 1996 to 1997; and as administrative assistant/public relations for the Yosemite National Institutes from 1995 to 1996. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from San Francisco State and a bachelor’s degree in political science from UC Santa Barbara. 

“I’m pleased that our new City Manager comes with experience facing the challenges and opportunities of a coastal community,” Del Mar Mayor Ellie Haviland said in a press release issued January 9.

Monday’s announcement culminated a five-month recruitment that included a community survey.

“I’m glad we were able to complete the search process so that we will have a smooth transition,” Council member Dave Druker said in the press 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 approved Monday. 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.

In a 2017 League of Women Voters interview, Johnson was asked what techniques she used when negotiating for a higher salary or other benefits. She replied: “You have to let it be known that you have an interest, are competent, and are willing to do the extra work involved in taking on a new assignment. I am convinced that 99 percent of managers want to help people develop professionally, but some are just clueless and they need to be specifically asked for assignments. We are each in charge of our professional destiny and it’s incumbent on us to vocalize our interest, make suggestions, make reasonable requests for professional development opportunities, and follow up with people who provide these opportunities or that can share information that can help us grow and advance in this fantastic profession.”

Her first day at the new job is February 12. A reception to introduce Johnson to the community will take place at a later date.