Encinitas council approves new city manager contract

New Encinitas City Manager Karen P. Brust will start Sept. 1.

The Encinitas City Council on July 8 unanimously approved her contract, ending a six-month search for a city manager. Council began the hunt after former City Manager Gus Vina left to take a city manager position in Northern California.

The contract calls for Brust to receive an annual salary of $238,000, plus benefits, a $500 a month car allowance and a $100 a month cell phone allowance.

Brust is currently the city manager of San Juan Capistrano, a job she’s held since 2011. Prior to that, she was the city manager of Del Mar.

Councilman Tony Kranz said thanks to these roles, Brust has valuable experience dealing with railroad and coastal issues. He also stated it’s a positive she lives in Olivenhain.

“And she has her finance bona fides,” Kranz said, noting Brust was also the director of finance at the San Diego County Water Authority for nearly a decade.

She received a salary of $218,000 a year plus benefits as city manager in San Juan Capistrano. Mayor Kristin Gaspar said Brust was slated to receive $250,000 starting in July.

“So there has been a significant reduction in the salary she was willing to accept,” Gaspar said, adding Brust’s benefits would have also been better in San Juan Capistrano.

Vina’s annual salary was $216,000 as well as benefits when he left. Gaspar said because Vina was in a different retirement tier than Brust will be, the city will be spared $17,000 annually in retirement costs. That $17,000 was added to Brust’s base salary to “bridge the gap” during negotiations, Gaspar stated.

A subcommittee made up of Gaspar and Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear hashed out the contract details over the last few weeks.

Councilman Mark Muir said the subcommittee negotiated a good deal for the city.

“I know it wasn’t an easy process,” he said. Muir also stated he’s glad the council was unanimously on board with hiring Brust.

Kranz said because Brust was happily employed in San Juan Capistrano she was “in the driver’s seat so to speak” in terms of negotiating. He added that’s in contrast to Vina, who was unemployed when the city interviewed him.

Encinitas received 61 applications for the position.

Because Brust won’t start until Sept. 1, city department heads will take two-week turns as city manager in the interim.