Working nearly 10 years as the finance director for the San Diego County Water Authority, Karen Brust missed city hall.
“The people that you get to impact every day, you don’t get to see them,” she said. So she went back to city hall, becoming the city manager of Del Mar, San Diego County’s smallest city. Last month, she became the head honcho in San Juan Capistrano, Orange County’s eighth smallest city. She has spent her entire career in the public sector.
The energetic Brust held her first meet-and-greet at the ’s monthly breakfast networking meeting Wednesday.
“I don’t know everything, but I love to learn,” she said. “Tell me the history. Tell me what works and what doesn’t work.”
Brust outlined the priorities that the City Council had communicated to her during the its search. Among them are reaching out to the business community, hiring a new utilities director and .
“We need to secure our financial situation in the city,” Brust said. She said she plans to bring ideas to the City Council by early November. She wants to concentrate on ways to provide city services better and more efficiently.
“Cuts across the board, in my view, do not make sense,” she said.
Regarding how she can help the business community, Brust said she has read the city’s and is excited to help encourage visitors to stay, shop and dine longer in the city.
“What the experts have found is that if [people are] standing on the sidewalk and the streets are meandering and because of the curve, they can’t see what’s next, so they don’t go down there,” Brust said. The new plan will bring the businesses closer to the curb to encourage more pedestrian traffic.
Brust also shared facts about her family life—“I’m a very open person,” she said. She has been married for 17 years and has two step-children, ages 25 and 28, and an 11-year-old daughter who's already in love with . She and the family haven't moved to the city yet, but they plan to.
She was born and raised in Connecticut, and her first jobs were in her home state. At her second city, New London, the staff at the time pushed hard to give the downtown a more pedestrian-friendly ambience. Now the town is a stopover port for cruise ships, she says she was gratified to later learn.
Brust came to California to work for the city of Southgate and then Gardena, more towns with issues concerning the business community. She also speaks Spanish, something that has become a bit rusty since leaving Southgate, she said.
Community Services Manager Cynthia Alexander also spoke to the chamber. She said the city is hoping businesses will sponsor next year’s fireworks display now that the .
The cost of the show is $32,000, but the city would need to have at least $16,000 in hand by December so that it could put it out to bid for vendors, Alexander said.
“I’m trying to strike now,” she said. Sponsors would be able to advertise at the popular event.