Bonnie Blue, a planner with the City of Malibu for nearly a decade, was announced as the new planning director at last week’s City Council meeting.
Blue takes over from former director Joyce Parker-Bozylinski, who retired at the end of 2014.
According to Blue and City Manager Jim Thorsen, in many ways Blue’s ascent to the position is the passing of a baton of institutional knowledge.
“It’s great to have somebody with her background and she knows our code,” Thorsen said during the announcement on Monday, March 23.
“She knows the players that are here and she knows the challenges of the projects, so it’s really nice for her to step into that position,” Thorsen said.
Blue has earned her stripes in the department, having been hired as an associate planner in 2006 and quickly climbing up to senior planner, interim planning director and now planning director.
“I really respect Joyce [Parker-Bozylinski], and I learned a whole lot from her, and I’m grateful for being able to work with her for several years,” Blue said of her predecessor. “I think I gained a lot of perspective from that experience that will help me navigate these new responsibilities.”
It’s not enough for Blue to hold onto that experience and knowledge — according to Blue, one of her main goals will be making sure the entire department is on the same page.
“One of my main goals is streamlining our processes, getting everybody trained and up to speed so we get things done as quickly as possible, while obviously doing a good job and meeting the public’s expectations of meeting the codes and all that,” Blue said.
She added that if there is any noticeable change in the department as she steps into the position, it will be filling in gaps in the department, which currently employs 14 full time staffers and two part-time planners.
“For several years we’ve been kind of in a perpetual state of trying to fill positions,” Blue explained. “We’ve had a number of people leave for various reasons, nothing bad, but that’s really created some workload challenges on everybody who’s left. So we’re working to fill positions.”
As to her philosophy as planning director, Blue said it’s about “striking a balance” between taking the “responsibility of planning for the community seriously” and “providing good customer service.” A way to accomplish that, Blue said, is to pass the baton of knowledge again.
“Given how complicated things are around here, I really value institutional knowledge,” Blue added, “so I’m going to work towards getting the staff trained and … on staff development as much as possible.”
Thorsen stressed that the City thinks Blue is a perfect fit, not only being experienced in Malibu, but with years of other experience and education.
“When we recruited, she was hands above everybody else that we interviewed,” Thorsen said.
Blue earned her bachelor’s degree at Vanderbilt and went on to the University of North Carolina for her master’s.
Blue worked as a planner for an engineering firm in Florida, and then in the City of Houston planning department for six years, so moving to California was a bit of a transition.
“I feel lucky to have landed here. I came here from out of state and planning in California is different from other places that I’ve worked,” Blue said.
On top of the changes state-to-state, Blue said Malibu is a unique spot.
“I think the community has amazing resources and I really appreciate how much the people of Malibu really love Malibu,” Blue said.