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A drone photo of Del Mar coastline. Photo by Marley St. John
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Del Mar Council votes in new city manager

DEL MAR — At its Jan. 13 meeting, Del Mar City Council unanimously agreed upon new City Manager Christa Johnson.

Previously assistant city manager in Laguna Beach, Johnson has over 22 years of experience with a background working for the city of Windsor and the county and city of Alameda.

After current City Manager Scott Huth announced his intentions in June to retire next month after eight years, the council began an extensive interview process to find a replacement.

“We have gone through a long process of interviewing a city manager,” City Councilman Dave Druker said at the meeting. “We as a council unanimously decided to make Christa Johnson, the current assistant manager in Laguna Beach, an offer. We have negotiated a contract with her and she accepted that contract.”

The terms of Johnson’s contract are as follows:

  • Johnson, for a three-year period (2020-2023) will receive an annual base salary of $240,000.
  • Each year, based upon San Diego’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), the base salary will be adjusted with no more than a maximum of 3%.
  • Once a “performance evaluation” is completed successfully the City Council can adjust the given base salary and/or any other benefits listed one time up to 4%.
  • The city will make a donation of $10,000 as selected by the city manager to one of the city’s “qualified deferred compensation” plans.
  • The city manager will also be awarded $500 car allowance each month as well as $150 allowance each month for phone/technology expenses.
  • The city manager will be provided with retirement benefits, health benefits and leave accruals as it is provided to all other city management.

“Obviously, people are going to go, ‘Oh my god, $240,000? Come on guys you should have been able to find somebody a lot cheaper than that.’” Druker said. “The question is, what would that person have been like compared to Christa? We obviously had a choice and we decided it is more important that we have an excellent city manager.”

Johnson agreed to the listed terms of the contract as well as a general release agreement related to termination of employment.

“I’m very excited,” City Councilman Dwight Warden said. “I think people are really going to like her. She is very capable and very personable.”

Johnson grew up in a military family and said she feels very comfortable in new environments. She said is excited to get to know San Diego County and Del Mar in the coming weeks.

“I want to know all things Del Mar,” Johnson said. “I have a collaborative style and I am very interested in hearing what their (Del Mar community) ideas are and their interests are in maintaining the quality of life there.”

Mayor Ellie Haviland weighed in acknowledging that Johnson’s experience working in an ocean community could not come at a better time for Del Mar.

“It in many ways is a perfect storm that Christa was available (and) had reached the right experience in her career at a time when Del Mar can benefit from her experiences and her skill set,” Haviland said.

Druker motioned for a vote on the proposed contract and hiring Johnson as the new city manager, which was then seconded by Haviland.

The council unanimously agreed 6-0 to hire Johnson, who will begin as city manager on Feb. 12.