New Encinitas city manager excited to be working in hometown


New Encinitas City Manager Karen Brust said she’s excited to be working in the place she’s called home for 15 years.

“It’s an honor to lead your own hometown, it’s just incredible,” said Brust, who has been on the job for about two weeks.

Before this position, Brust was the city manager of San Juan Capistrano for four years, which meant long commutes. Brust’s family considered moving up north so that she and her husband could be closer to their jobs, but they ultimately decided to stay put.

“We really love Encinitas,” she said. “It’s our home. We couldn’t give it up.”

As city manager, Brust oversees day-to-day operations, and she’s tasked with carrying out the Encinitas City Council’s vision.

Brust moved to Cardiff a decade and a half ago because her family was “drawn to the community like a magnet.” Two years later, the family moved to Olivenhain, where they live now, so that her daughter could grow up around “trails, trees and nature.”

She said her time in Encinitas has afforded her an appreciation for each of the five communities that make up the city.

“There’s something for everyone in Encinitas,” Brust said.

Sixty-one people applied for the city manager job, after former City Manager Gus Vina took a city manager position in Northern California. Councilmembers have stated that Brust’s knowledge of rail and environmental issues, finance experience and familiarity with the city set her apart from the other candidates.

“She believes city government should be a model of sustainability; she has a strong financial background; and as an Olivenhain resident, she fundamentally understands community character,” Deputy Mayor Catherine Blakespear said in July.

Brust was also Del Mar’s city manager from 2007 to 2011, and before that, the director of finance at the San Diego County Water Authority for nearly a decade.

Her contract calls for an annual $238,000 salary, plus benefits. Vina made $216,000 annually before he left.

Among her top goals, Brust said the council has made it clear that rail concerns are a priority. San Juan Capistrano also grappled with rail issues during her tenure there, and as one solution, she noted the city was able to install “quiet zones” — safety improvements made to intersections, reducing the need for train horn blasts.

“That was huge,” Brust said.

She also has her eye on environmental goals, from implementing the city’s climate action plan to conserving water.

“This is where my family has put its roots, and it’s going to be great to protect the environment,” Brust said.

Public safety, including stabilizing the Beacon’s Beach access trail, is another big item on her radar.

Brust said she’s looking forward to sitting down with the council to talk “strategic planning” and what should be accomplished over the next year.

Ever since living in Encinitas, Brust said, she’s been too busy to participate in a lot of city happenings, saying coming on board as city manager has meant “rediscovering the community.”

“You just see so much more,” Brust said. “It’s almost like when you drive down the street, as compared to when you walk by each home or business. You see so much more detail. It’s a richer experience.”