San Juan Capistrano’s Brust tapped to become next city manager

San Juan Capistrano’s Brust tapped to become next city manager
Karen Brust, an Olivenhain resident and former city manager of San Juan Capistrano, will become Encinitas’ new city manager Sept. 1. Photo courtesy the city of San Juan Capistrano

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council is slated to approve the hiring of current San Juan Capistrano City Manager Karen Brust to its city manager post this week.

Brust, an Olivenhain resident, emerged from a field of nearly 60 candidates to replace former city manager Gus Vina, who resigned his post in January to take the same position in the Northern California city of Brentwood.

Her proposed contract, which the council will vote on Wednesday, will pay her $238,000 — $22,000 more than Vina — and she will receive a $500 monthly car allowance and $100 monthly cell phone allowance. She will pay her entire employee retirement contribution, which is 7 percent of her base salary.

According to a city staff report, she is scheduled to start her new post Sept. 1.

A subcommittee composed of Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear have been ironing out the contract details since late May, when they announced they had arrived on a finalist.

“Karen is a great choice or Encinitas because she believes city government should be a model of sustainability,” Blakespear said. “She has a strong financial background and as an Olivenhain resident she fundamentally understands community character. I’m thrilled to have her start work.”

Brust earned $218,000 in San Juan Capistrano, a city of about 35,000 in south Orange County.

Brust also served as the city manager in Del Mar from 2007 to 2011, where officials credited her for helping the city to achieve “AAA” credit ratings. She also was an integral part of a proposed deal for the city to purchase the fairgrounds from the state for $120 million. The deal was ultimately shelved.

Prior to Del Mar, Brust was the financial director and treasurer for the San Diego County Water Authority, where, according to previous reports, she administered a $1.48 billion two-year operating budget and a $3.5 billion capital budget.

She received a master’s degree in organizational management and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Central Connecticut State University. She and her husband has lived in Encinitas for 15 years — first in Cardiff-by-the-Sea before moving to Olivenhain — and have three children, two of whom are adults.

Over the past six months, Encinitas’ managerial duties were handled by Larry Watt, the city’s former public works director and a current board member of the Olivenhain Municipal Water District. Watt, who was paid $15,000 a month, concluded his service on July 1.

Watt said that city department heads will rotate serving as manager until Brust arrives Sept. 1.

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