Leadership event draws big crowd

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Laguna Beach civic leaders and business people celebrated their accomplishments of 2010 and stated their goals for 2011 at the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce's annual Leadership Luncheon.

Meeting Tuesday at Hotel Laguna, the first order of business was honoring the memory of hotel owner Claes Andersen, whose death in 2010 stunned the community. The 60 seconds allotted for individual comments was instead filled with silent reverence for the hotelier who had hosted the event since it began 22 years ago.

Also missing was longtime organizer Bobbi Cox, who reportedly decided to sit the event out this year after serving as mistress of ceremonies — and rigorous time-keeper — since the event began in 1988. Serving as "mistresses of the gong" were Michele Clark of Waste Management and Kay Kearney of Doctors Ambulance, who performed as a veritable comic duo in keeping the speakers brief — and the crowd laughing.

Many speakers said they were hoping for an uneventful year after December rainstorms flooded city streets and filled homes and businesses with mud.

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'No disasters'

Mayor Toni Iseman set the tone by saying she "is looking forward to a year with no disasters," while counting her reelection chief among her accomplishments. Iseman is the only council member to serve four consecutive terms.

Councilman Kelly Boyd concurred with Iseman that his biggest accomplishment of 2010 was getting reelected.

"I'm looking forward to getting a lot accomplished in 2011, including the new budget and keeping spending down," he said.

"I want to spend less time with e-mail and newspapers and more with books and friends," Iseman said.

Councilmember Verna Rollinger said her biggest accomplishment of 2010 was "that I finished planting my yard." Rollinger said her chief goal for the coming year is "to get the Village Entrance project off the ground."

Chamber President Chris Keller said he was proudest of opening a new restaurant, the House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer, on South Coast Highway, and that he is looking forward to turning 40 in 2011.

City Clerk Martha Anderson said her department's chief accomplishment was enhancing online access to city information, as well as being able to record documents with the Orange County Clerk via the Internet.

City Manager John Pietig said his biggest accomplishment was being hired to replace longtime City Manager Ken Frank.

"My goals are not to have another disaster and to work on the [city] budget," Pietig said.

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Flood news

Flood relief coordinator Ann Quilter parted ways with the format by giving a "flood report," noting that many of the needs of flood victims — which now number 94 families — are being met, including donations of clothing and vehicles to replace those lost to the flooding. Quilter made a special plea to the business group to help find "affordable rental housing" for those who lost their low-cost residences.

She also asked the group to donate casual and business clothing via the Assistance League to replace ruined wardrobes.

Quilter thanked Mission Hospital Laguna Beach for underwriting the hauling of 50 trucks of debris, as well as Laguna Beach Rotarians for their donation of about $24,000 in appliances and goods to replace destroyed belongings.

Her husband, Charlie Quilter, said his biggest achievement of 2010 was earning his doctorate from UC Irvine.

"In 2011, I'll work to make Laguna Beach safer from disasters," he said.

Greg Abel thanked Pietig and city staff for assisting in repairs at flood-damaged Anneliese's School.

"They helped expedite repairs and our temporary classroom is up and running and kids are back to school," Abel said.

Dennis Junka of the Sawdust Festival said he was proud that the Sawdust's Winter Fantasy turned a profit despite nine days of rain during the show. The goal for 2011: "Dig out the mud and replace the electrical [facilities] on the grounds before the summer show starts."

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Lots of accomplishments

Some of the accomplishments were purely personal.

Insurer John Campbell went to Europe three times on vacation.

Emanuel Patrascu, who serves as a field deputy to state Sen. Tom Harman, said his chief accomplishment in 2010 was getting engaged.

"In 2011, I hope to get married," he said.

A positive note was sounded by Leah Beal of Citizens Business Bank, who said that her bank was one of the rare financial institutions to see a profit in 2010, and she predicted that would continue in 2011.

Judy Bijlani, of the Laguna Beach Visitors and Conference Bureau, said that the organization will turn 25 next year, and in 2011 is launching a new culinary tourism program with a new website and special restaurant offers.

Ben Warner, of Firebrand Media, said his company had grown in 2010 after hiring former Coastline Pilot Publisher Tom Johnson as publisher of the Laguna Beach Independent newspaper.

Ruben Flores of Laguna Nursery said his chief accomplishment was "staying open" in 2010, and that the nursery is hoping to sell lots of plants this spring.

Karen Wood, executive director of Laguna Playhouse, said the venue celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2010, and will uncork a "champagne performance" at the Playhouse on Valentine's Day.

Chris Guziak, of Coast Sotheby's International Realty, said his work with the Laguna Beach Parents Club had been his highlight of 2010.

Helen Evers, of Animal Crackers Pet Rescue, said her group had given shelter to more than 200 unwanted pets in 2010, and in 2011 the goal is to find an acre of land in Laguna Canyon to expand its operation beyond the current groomer and pet supply shop.

Marilyn Schwartz of R.U.F.F. (Rescuing Unwanted Furry Friends), said her rescue agency had "saved 1,000 pets" in 2010 and in 2011 is launching a pet food donation program so people who are financially strapped can feed their pets.

Michelle Ray, of the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, said her group would be kicking off a new skate park program this weekend.

Marcus Skenderian, vice president of the Laguna Board of Realtors, said 2010 was a big year for the Realtors because they remodeled their building. Skenderian, who also works with SchoolPower, reported that the education foundation had raised funds from 540 families in 2011.

Morris Skenderian, Marcus' father and a local architect, gave a lengthy list of projects his firm worked on in 2010, and said that in 2011, he expected to assist with two new restaurant projects, one at the former Hush restaurant and another at the former Javier's, both on South Coast Highway.

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New in town

Several newcomers introduced themselves, including Nadia Babayi, recently hired as executive director of the Susi Q Senior Center.

"Our achievement was that we have become the center for seniors in Laguna Beach, and I'm very honored to be the executive director," Babayi said.

Marie Elfston of Laguna Beach Travel, which opened in 2010, said she is hoping to help make travel easier in 2011.

Sandy Robertson said she had recently joined the Laguna Beach Music Festival and was helping longtime organizer Cindy Prewitt put on an even bigger festival this year.

Chiropractor Walter Fong, who moved into Laguna Beach last year, specializes in sleep apnea and snoring issues.

Joining the arts community is Chanse Roselli, opening a studio on Laguna Canyon Road.

Chamber executive Rose Hancock said the organization will turn 94 this year with a "focus on sustainability" and helping businesses.

Closing out the event, Iseman said she is "praying for money from FEMA" to help with disaster relief and admonished the crowd of some 80 people to help Laguna businesses and "shop locally."

"What can you buy on your way to your car?" she asked.

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