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Del Mar 101: A 12-Month Intensive Course for City Managers
November 2008 | Bud Emerson interviews Karen Brust, City Manager


Karen Brust, Del Mar City Manager

Emerson:  Now that you have been in the job for 10 months, can you cite two or three things that have surprised or confirmed what you thought the job would bring?
Brust:  My surprise has been in the willingness of our residents to share their talents and roll their sleeves up to help us work on critical issues for the City which confirms my
belief coming into the job that the community is passionate about our City.  I had heard that input was important in making decisions in the City and what I have learned is that
process is in fact vital to move the City forward positively and effectively.
Emerson:  The City has experienced a number of staff personnel changes this year – are you cleaning house?
Brust:  Changes with a new manager are normal and should be expected.  Del Mar not only lost their City Manager, but several months before they lost their Assistant City
Manager who had both been in office for more than fourteen years. It is true that our Executive Team has gone through a period of change this year and together we are working through those changes and building a highly achieving team. 
Emerson:  Are more personnel changes likely?  Can you make a general comment on the ability of the Del Mar staffers?

Brust:  The Del Mar Executive Team is solid.  I feel very fortunate leading such a talented, dedicated, and caring team of quality individuals who truly want to serve the community.  One of my leadership strategies is developing an organization-wide succession plan that will promote the professional development and growth of our up-and-comers in order to ensure that the City is developing its leadership for the future.  The Cityʼs Executive Team will have some retirement-eligible employees in the next few years so it is incumbent upon me to be proactive in planning for the future.  Some of the benefits of a succession plan are the sharing of institutional knowledge which grows the effectiveness of our Team, and it is a proven retention strategy.  I believe that the development of City staff is a very important factor in ensuring the future success of our organization.

Emerson:  What influences in your life affect the way you approach the job?

Brust:  My parents, especially my father, were very influential in building my character as a contributing member of society.  I have dedicated my entire career to public service
because I believe in it and I love to help others.  Later on in my career, one of my greatest mentors was the City Manager in New London, CT who was a very effective leader.  I really admired how he would go above and beyond.  When it would snow, he and his children would go out early in the morning helping to shovel out those who were unable to do so for themselves.  To me, this was commitment; this was a public servant who demonstrated his leadership by his actions, which underscored his values.

Emerson:  What do you see as the core values of the Del Mar community?  How do they square with your core values?
Brust:  I see Del Mar Community’s core values as honoring the City’s past as it looks to its future.  The overlying principles that have endured and that the community has come to expect are reflected in an open and participatory local government, in protecting the environment, in preserving Del Mar’s village ambience and character and its history.  I
see a community that is brought together and sometimes divided by their love for their community and the passion they feel in upholding its core values.  I too believe in good government and have served the public with strong customer service skills for over 20 years achieving results by being inclusive, transparent and respectful of others.  My
core values are honesty, integrity, ethics, open communication, continuous improvement, customer satisfaction, being environmentally conscious, hard working and working together to achieve results.  I see Del Mar’s values as being very much in concert with my own values, which is a significant reason why I wanted to be Del Mar’s City Manager.  
Emerson:  How can commercial revitalization be achieved while minimizing adverse impacts in nearby neighborhoods?
Brust:  Commercial revitalization can be achieved with minimum impacts to our residents by ensuring that the stakeholders are included in the decision-making, and then carried out with an underlying legal structure in our Community Plan, zoning regulations and a downtown specific plan.  The key is in balancing revitalization goals for economic vitality
as it relates to supporting essential city services and never losing sight of the vision of the Del Mar that residents want to live in.

Emerson:  How will traffic and noise concerns of nearby residents be factored into the planning process?

Brust:  Traffic and noise concerns are two of the environmental impacts that will be studied and to the greatest extent possible mitigated in order to protect our nearby residents.  As we proceed with Downtown Revitalization, an Environmental Impact Report will examine these issues in detail. 

Emerson:  What are you doing to open channels of communication with citizen leaders?
Brust:  I have and continue to attend many of the citizen committee meetings, the Del Mar non-profit Board meetings, and Del Mar fundraising and community events.  I actively
participated in meeting with our community through the Community Conversations Program in which I was able to meet many citizen leaders at approximately 20 homes and businesses.  Now I am looking to develop more one-on-one channels of communication through individual meetings with citizen leaders.  I hope to tap into the collective wisdom of the community as a resource as the City moves forward.



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