Santa Monica city leaders and community members emotionally bid Interim City Manager Lane Dilg farewell this week as she prepares to leave the city for Washington D.C.

Dilg arrived in Santa Monica as a City Attorney in 2017. Mayor Sue Himmelrich and Mayor Pro Tem Kristin McCowan recalled this week how Dilg took on tech giants in the name of preserving Santa Monica’s housing for residents, and did so in-house, which they said was a testament to her confidence in the City Attorney’s Office.

Then, in the early and most uncertain days of the pandemic the City Council had a critical decision to make: who will lead the City through the dark days of the pandemic?

“You stepped up and took the interim city manager position, which, if nothing else shows you are either the bravest, or the dumbest human being on Earth,” Councilmember Gleam Davis said jokingly. “I vote for bravest, because you knew your sense of civic duty overcame whatever qualms you had, and I think that is a rare, rare quality.”

Himmelrich noted this week that Dilg’s was the first recruitment process she had participated in while on an ad-hoc committee.

“Then of course, we got to the pandemic and suddenly Lane was our city manager. And since she’s told us she was leaving, I’ve been going through all of the stages of grieving,” she said. “And I really thought I had gotten to acceptance until today.”

Himmelrich said council knew from day one that Dilg possessed the knowledge and fortitude to see the City through one of its darkest times.

She hit the ground running with the complex task of restructuring a City that was facing $224 million in projected revenue losses.

“Through her leadership, our fiscal health is strong,” Himmelrich said. “The FY 2021-23 Biennial Budget reflects no deficit now or in the five-year forecast. We have retained our AAA bond rating, which means we are poised for a steady and solid economic and community recovery.”

With finances stabilized, Dilg and city leadership shifted their focus to the safety of the city in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic recovery was also a focus and through the We Are Santa Monica Fund, $1.1 million was raised to sustain the Virginia Avenue Park Emergency Food Pantry and to support small businesses with small grants and the Black Agenda.

“What I’ve always been so impressed by is the steady calm, and how you can be very direct and informative but you also take great care for all of us, and our roles and the city and you’re just incredibly thoughtful,” McCowan said this week before Dilg took an opportunity to speak about her new adventure out east.

The outgoing City Manager said she couldn’t help but feel like laughing because people always say she has a poker face during council meetings.

“And even I am waiting for the moment where I break into tears because, I think, that there is just so much emotion around everyone in this room and around what this year has been and around how much I love this place and the fact that I am indeed leaving for a swamp. That it is hard to bring it all together in these moments.”

“I think of a moment where I was driving my son somewhere and he referred to Santa Monica as his village. And I loved it so much because it just reflected, so deeply, his love for the place and also reflected to me his vantage point… because it is his village, and he knows the trees, and he knows the streets, and he knows where the swings are and he rides his bike,” Dilg added. “But it also is his village, in that it is the childcare providers, the doctors, the members of the community, the people who build the roads, who expanded the beach bike path — which still is my favorite capital project — this is the community that built his entire life. And, you know, as a mother, you love nothing more than the things that bring your child joy and health and happiness.”

Dilg then moved to thank all of the individuals who make a sacrifice in the name of public service.

“I am sincere when I say to the city staff that there is not a day I could have done this without you. I leaned on all of you in so many different ways and I’m so grateful for the unbelievable dedication that you put in every day. It really was just a tremendous example of what public service is, what it takes to be a community, what it takes to create a community, and I’m so grateful to the city council for giving me the opportunity to serve in my hometown. It’s really an extraordinary, extraordinary thing. So, with all of that, I just want to express my tremendous gratitude to all of you… And I’m sincere when I say that it has been a privilege and I’m really grateful to all of you.”

With tears streaming down her face, Himmelrich said during this week’s farewell, “I’m smiling now. But look, I’m praying on the inside that she’s still going to tell me she’s changed her mind and stay here. I know that’s not happening, but I just am so sad to see you go Lane. I will miss you so much.”

brennon@smdp.com