Representing Malibu with honor, dignity and humility

Paul Grisanti was elected to the Malibu City Council in November 2020. He was elected mayor in April 2021, and re-elected as mayor in February 2022. The Malibu Times had the opportunity to speak to Grisanti and his hopes for the new year as he continues as a councilmember. 

“I’m really grateful that we were able to accomplish the things we did, and I’m really excited about the school separation,” Grisanti said. “I have a lot of confidence that we’re going to be able to accomplish this by July 24.”

After Woolsey and the pandemic, staff retention has been an ongoing challenge for many cities, including Malibu. Luckily, the city was able to hire and retain new employees this year.  

“I’m very happy that we have now hired four different companies to get the equivalent of five or six full-time employees for the Planning Department and building and safety to make planning department work more smoothly and hopefully we’ll get the wait times for people to get a permit down,” Grisanti said. “That is the thing that caused me the most emails, and I’m really happy that we’re moving on that.”

During the time Grisanti was mayor, the city was able to hire Steve McClary as permanent city manager, Joseph Toney was brought in as assistant city manager and Ruthie Quinto as city treasurer.

“I’ve got to tell you the letters I get complimenting the staff,” Grisanti said. “It’s amazing how many of them come in for Yolanda [Bundy, Environmental Sustainability Department director]. She really knows customer service, and she’s very good at helping people, and they’re grateful for it. I’m glad we’ve got somebody leading the way on that.”

Grisanti served 19 years on the Public Works Commission, first appointed by then-Mayor Jeff Jennings in 2002, followed by appointments from Councilmember Lou LaMonte in 2010 and then-Mayor Pro Tem Karen Farrer in 2019.

“I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Mikke [Pierson] and Karen. I just get to take credit for the work that they did,” Grisanti said jokingly. “The school separation was all them, and the concept was something I liked when I got involved. I’d been involved with this for quite a while, and I’m very grateful that they took part and hired the people we have working for us. The attorneys and accountants who are familiar with school financing because, without them, this would’ve gone nowhere.”

With community events returning to in-person, Grisanti has participated in most events hosted throughout the city. 

“I think it’s incredibly important to show up for things,” Grisanti said. “All the commissioners involved in making various things happen in the community, I’ve got to give them their props for everything they do. For example, the Arts Commission, Fireball [Tim Lawrence] is on it, and he has been leading the charge on the art shows; he’s a friend of mine for starters, but he’s so enthusiastic about everything and so being able to work with people like that is great.”

Grisanti continued to thank his appointees on the Homelessness Task Force, Ian Roven and Terry Davis, Dane Skophammer on Parks and Recreation and Public Safety Commissioner Joshua Spiegel. 

“They’re [Roven and Terry] both fabulous people, and I’ve known Josh since he was in high school, and he’s, he’s doing such a good job, I’m so grateful that he’s there,” Grisanti said. “I’m hoping that in this coming year we’re going to plan to build some more parks and do things like that. We’ve got the land and I would love to see that happen. We have been so involved in trying to get out from under the pandemic and the Woolsey that not enough has been done that we would all like to accomplish.”

During the City Council meeting on Dec. 12, many residents spoke during public comment to thank Farrer, Pierson and Grisanti for their dedication to the community. 

“Mayor Grisanti, you have represented Malibu with honor, dignity and humility in the last couple of years in the eyes of the world and for that, a well-deserved thank you,” Howard Rudski said.

As an active member of organizations such as Malibu CERT, Arson Watch, and Malibu West Fire Brigade, Grisanti already has a history of working with members of the community. If there’s one thing that he realized when he gained the mayor title, was being there for the community. 

Paul Grisanti (center) Bruce Silverstein (left) and Steve Uhring (right) are shown in a City Council meeting gin early 2022. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

“I discovered when I became mayor is, you get a lot of emails from various people with ideas and I’m pretty good at responding to all of those which takes up a lot of time but what they’re doing is important, they’re participating and the fact that they took the time to sit down and write an email, they deserve to get a response,” Grisanti said. “I reply with, “I’m aware of it, or we’re already doing X, Y, and Z, and what else should we be doing on that issue? That kind of thing.” It doesn’t take a million years, but you never know; some of them might end up being future council people.”

Grisanti said there are aspects of being the mayor that he didn’t expect.

“There are people who call up from basically random locations, and they just want to talk to the mayor because it’s like they’re checking a box in their life; I talked to the mayor of Malibu today,” Grisanti said. “And that’s not a real-time burner or anything, and I put my phone out there, so it’s not hard for people to reach me.”

While councilmembers Pierson and Farrer ended their term, seats opened up for new councilmembers Doug Stewart and Marianne Riggins.

“I think Doug is great with numbers, he’s good at running meetings and he’s very organized, so I think that we will benefit from that and his experience. And Marianne knows so much about the permit process in Malibu and has been involved in the school’s separation before the separation was talked about, and I’m sure she’s going to do a very good job also,” Grisanti said. “I’m very grateful that they won. I think that the citizens of Malibu picked a great couple of people, and I think that they will accomplish a lot in their time on the City Council, and I couldn’t be happier.”

As for staffing, Grisanti hopes to make Malibu a place where everyone wants to work.

“One of the things that I’m working on is trying to figure out a way to make working for Malibu more attractive. One of the problems we have is that most of our staff is commuting in from other areas and when gas went from $3 a gallon to $6 a gallon, that didn’t help us at all,” Grisanti said. “I would like us to just be, ‘well, you know, Malibu loves us and they’re paying us well and they’re trying to take care of us and I really want to stay there because I feel like we’re making progress on everything,’ and the other thing we have to do is make sure they feel like there’s a future in working for Malibu.”

Grisanti said it’s essential for any organization to rotate in leadership. 

“In any organization I’ve ever been part of, the leadership needs to change and keep changing because if the same person is running the organization, running the organization, running the organization, people aren’t happy; they need to feel like their chance for recognition is coming,” Grisanti said. “Their chance to do the things they have identified things that need doing, will happen.”

Grisanti said feedback from the community is important such as what they hope will occupy the vacant land. 

“Maybe they want us to leave it alone, or maybe they’ll want us to build a fine arts place, build a pool, an aquatic center, or put in some other soccer field, but as somebody who’s been in real estate for a long time, I hate to see land just sitting there with nobody doing anything with it,” Grisanti said. “I think that we spent a lot of money to buy it, and I want to see the community getting some use out of it.”

Grisanti’s term expires in November 2024. During the City Council meeting on Dec. 12, Bruce Lee Silverstein was elected mayor of Malibu, after serving two terms as mayor pro tem, and Steve Uhring was elected as the new mayor pro tem.

“I’m confident that Bruce is going to step up and be diplomatic with our neighbors and run meetings in a business-like fashion,” Grisanti said. “I’m sure he will succeed, and if he succeeds, we all succeed.”

Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo is an inspiring photojournalist based in Los Angeles California. She began her journalism career at Pierce College Media Arts Department. Twitter @samanthavbravo

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