When City Manager Ken Frank retired, his longtime assistant Carol Bright wasn't far behind.
Bright's last official day on the job was Dec. 15, three days after her boss ended his 31-year career in Laguna. She worked for Frank for 16 ½ years.
"She was absolutely the perfect person for the position with Ken," City Clerk Martha Anderson said. "She handled every situation — regardless of what it was — with aplomb."
Bright, whose always-smiling face lighted up the City Manager's outer office, was unflappable when dealing with her boss, known to be demanding upon occasion — a description she would never voice — or confronted with some of Frank's more obstreperous visitors.
She vigilantly protected her Frank's privacy. She would look a visitor straight in the eye and say in her most dulcet tones that she would check if Frank was available, even though he couldn't enter or leave his inner sanctum without her knowledge.
"She exemplifies people who do the work behind the scenes and don't get enough credit, "Frank said. "Nearly nothing gets done at City Hall without them."
But guarding the gate was the easy part of her job.
"The toughest part was just keeping up with him," Bright said. "He is a work-a-holic. The first couple of years, I wondered if I had made a mistake. But he was a great boss, the best I ever had.
"And there was never a dull moment. There was so much going in the city. It kept you on your toes."
Frank handpicked Bright from 110 applicants. Bright, employed by Los Angeles County at the time and tired of the commute from South County, was looking for something closer to home.
"He weeded me out in an interview," Bright said. "I sat with him for a couple of hours. I remember I was wearing a suit. Then we met another time for lunch, both of us more casually dressed, and he hired me."
Bright isn't sure how she will like retirement.
"I've never tried it before," she said. "I am going to take some time to regroup."
One thing she is looking forward to is spending more time with her grandchildren.
"My daughter in Colorado just had a baby, and I will be visiting her," Bright said.
Bright and her husband, Bob, have four children and six grandchildren with a seventh on the way.
And of course, there is baseball. She is a fan, a super fan.
Last summer, the Brights toured the major baseball franchises in the East, seeing games in Philadelphia, Boston, New York and other cities.
Still, Bright said, she will miss the folks at City Hall.
"People here become family," she said.
However, Bright will keep her hand in.
She has been assisting the transition to the Pietig administration and will sub in January when Leah Hall, who has taken over as administrative assistant to the city manager, attends some training classes.