Burbank Unified School Board President Debbie Kukta will be the city's next treasurer, while longtime Burbank resident and Glendale Community Relations Coordinator Zizette Mullins was named Burbank city clerk Thursday.
Kukta and Mullins were both unanimously named to the interim positions during a special City Council meeting, necessitated by the retirements of City Clerk Margarita Campos and Treasurer Donna Anderson. Campos and Anderson, both of whom hold elected offices, announced their retirements with about a year left in their terms.
Citing the cost of holding a special election to fill their posts, the council opted to make the interim appointments.
Mullins, a member of the Burbank Civil Service Commission, has worked for the city of Glendale since 1987, and has lived in Burbank for 30 years.
Her decision to apply for the position has to do with her deep Burbank roots, she said.
“It has to do with being a Burbank resident for 30 years, my kids grew up in Burbank, I opened a business in Burbank, and have been on the Civil Service board two years,” Mullins said Friday morning. “I never wanted to move out of Burbank. It is the city I chose early on in life. My career took me to Glendale and when this opportunity came up, this is exactly what I wanted to do.”
Glendale has been struggling to close a $15.4-million budget gap and in the last few months offered city employees an opportunity to retire early to avoid layoffs. The retirements and expected layoffs equal about 10% of the city's workforce.
Mullins said she was not among those offered early retirement — she is not old enough to qualify — and was not affected by the layoffs.
Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy said in her comments before the vote on the city clerk that three candidates stood out, including Mullins.
Mullins' willingness to walk away from her 25-year job and work the for Burbank is “like stepping off a cliff” and counting on the ground coming up to meet you in the process, Gabel-Luddy said. “It shows a character that is not afraid of challenges.”
Eleven people applied for the city clerk position, including Mullins, and Kukta was among six applicants for the city treasurer position.
Kukta in recent weeks helped replace the Burbank Unified superintendent, and will now need a replacement of her own.
In a phone interview after the meeting, Kukta said that she regretted having to leave her position on the school board midterm, but added that her background in accounting made for a great fit with the new title.
“Community service has always been really important to me and when I heard this vacancy was occurring, I thought, ‘This was my niche, something I could do to really benefit the community,'” Kukta said. “I grew up in Burbank — the city is really important to me.”
Kukta could start as early as July 8 in her new role and will be responsible for the city's investment portfolio and cash flow, managing hundreds of millions of dollars.
“You have to make sure you have enough cash for the daily needs of the city, meeting pay roll and paying bills,” Kukta said. “Also, you want to try and maximize the return, and are constantly evaluating investment possibilities.”
An accountant by trade, Kukta was first elected to the Burbank Unified school board in 2005 and is currently serving her second term as president. Her proudest achievements in that capacity were helping to see through the modernization of several school sites, overhauling all board policies and building rapport with her colleagues, she said.
Steps to replace her on the school board have yet to be set in motion, Kukta said, adding that it will likely be done by appointment.
Both Kukta and Mullins said they will run for their respective offices in the April election.