|Irvine Profile - Larry Larsen|Can you give us a background on how you started at the City of Irvine and what departments you have worked in?
I started out in the City Manager’s Office in a position titled “Citizens Assistance Officer,” serving as an ombudsman for the City. In the early days we had an employee rotation program, so I worked in each department in the City. After that, I served as the City’s Budget Officer, Officer for International Affairs, Assistant to the City Manager and Council Services Manager.
What are the biggest changes you have seen in your 37 years at the City?
First and foremost, technology. The move into our current City Hall in 1989 probably marked, both figuratively and literally, our transition into the new age of technology. PCs and the Internet changed the way the City did business in a big way.
Second, as the City grew, areas of operation became much more specialized. Early on, most employees had multiple responsibilities that covered various disciplines. Today, the staff expertise required to oversee and administer many of our programs has increased dramatically.
What are some of the biggest and most challenging projects the City has taken on?
There have been many over the years, but a few stand out. The extension of Jamboree Road through the Tustin Marine Base in the early 1990s was a huge project; leading the effort to create the Orange County Fire Authority was a unique challenge; and of course the Orange County bankruptcy in 1994 (our City Manager at the time, Paul Brady, and City staff played a leadership role in assisting the County and affected cities out of the bankruptcy.)
The biggest and most challenging to date, however, has been the El Toro MCAS closure, defeat of a commercial airport, and construction of the Orange County Great Park.
What do you remember most about working for the City in the early days?
Hearing the band play at the Spritzgarten college tavern below City Hall offices in the old University Town Center! Also, staff meeting with representatives from all of the homeowner associations in the City at a monthly gathering called the Village Forum. At the time there were only 10-15 associations and we would give presentations on current topics, field questions and follow up on issues of concern.
Do you see any similarities between Irvine today and Irvine 1974?
Irvine still has the aura of being a “new” city, probably due to ongoing development and the high aesthetic standards throughout the community. Homeowner associations and citizen participation remain an important part of Irvine life. And the Irvine Company is a major presence as it was 40 years ago. As for our municipal government, the City continues to address many significant issues well ahead of the curve. After incorporation, residents expected a higher level of service and that seems to have carried forward to the present.