Hallie Jones, Judie Mancuso enter race for Laguna Beach City Council

Hallie Jones, left, and Judie Mancuso are running for election to the Laguna Beach City Council in November.
(Photos courtesy of Hallie Jones and Judie Mancuso)

Election day is more than seven months away, but a couple of longtime residents have already announced their candidacies for the Laguna Beach City Council in November.

Hallie Jones and Judie Mancuso will be among those running to fill two seats up for grabs on the five-person municipal governing body. Those seats are currently filled by George Weiss and Bob Whalen. Neither incumbent has entered the race as of yet.

As it does for many in the community, public safety tops the list of priorities for Jones, whose personal experience includes losing the family home in the Canyon Acres neighborhood during the 1993 fire.


“I remember clearly being at the high school and watching the smoke rise and knowing that it was my neighborhood that was in jeopardy,” Jones said. “I have never forgotten even the smell of smoke that lingered in this town for days after that fire.”

Jones views continued undergrounding of utility lines and providing defensible space for firefighters as ways to prevent catastrophic wildfire.

Formerly the executive director of Laguna Canyon Foundation, Jones now serves as executive vice president and chief program officer at Crystal Cove Conservancy. She said she feels her experience as a nonprofit leader and her background in dealing with open space and marine conservation issues could provide value to the council.

Jones, who serves on the Orange County Parks Commission, added she wants to foster “smart development.”

“How do we streamline things at City Hall and promote development that aligns with our community values?” Jones said. “How do we promote development that aligns with the things that we hold dear — our natural environment, the arts community, our small businesses, and our quality of life?”

Mancuso has run for the City Council twice before in Laguna Beach, which she has called home since 1995. She most recently ran against Assemblywoman Diane Dixon (R-Newport Beach) in the state’s redrawn 72nd district in 2022.

Although Dixon won at the ballot box, Mancuso considered it far from a total loss. She didn’t want Dixon to run unopposed for the seat, and she said the value of running was “priceless.”

“When people were like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry you lost,’ I was like, ‘No, no. I did not lose. Yes, I’m not an Assembly member, and I lost in that aspect, but I feel like I’m a winner.’

“Coming off of that and now having that name recognition — 90,000 people voted for me. A whole bunch of them were in Laguna Beach.”

After running for office at the state level, Mancuso still sees opportunity in entering a local race. As founder and president of the nonprofit Social Compassion in Legislation, she has seen several of the bills they have sponsored lead to similar changes in policy in other states. The advocacy group concerns itself with animal and environmental issues.

“That’s the opportunity that I see in Laguna Beach,” said Mancuso, who has been the vice chair of the city’s environmental sustainability committee since 2019. “... We can also be a model for all of these other cities.”

Mancuso has a long list of issues she would like to tackle, including public health and safety, where she sees infrastructure as essential.

“There shouldn’t be any more sewage spills, and if we can identify why these sewage spills are happening, we have to fix them so that they stop happening,” Mancuso said. “We have to shine a light on water quality and throw whatever we need to throw at it to make sure that the water is clean and safe, we’re not adding to it.”

She believes the city’s infrastructure needs to be able to support not only the residents, but it needs to account for the waves of visitors that flock to Laguna Beach annually, too. That includes addressing public parking and restrooms.

Mancuso would also like to focus on accountability, fiscal responsibility and transparency in government, as well as the issue of affordable housing.