City Manager Addresses Challenges at WISPPA’s Annual Cocktail Party

Mary Urquhart (left), who hosted Monday’s event with her husband Bill, questions featured speaker Stephanie DeWolfe, South Pasadena’s city manager, about the consequences of losing the Utility Users’ Tax in November. Photos by Sally Kilby

“The city’s goal is to provide the best possible public safety,” said City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe at Monday’s cocktail party sponsored by the community organization known as WISPPA.  Bill and Mary Urquhart hosted the group at their home on Chelten Way. 

“That’s our no. 1 commitment to our community,” DeWolfe said.

She was the guest speaker at the 9th annual cocktail party sponsored by Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Action. More than 100 community members attended.

The event took place on the spacious grounds of the Urquhart estate, which includes a pool, gardens and outdoor dining structure. The décor was patriotic, with red, white and blue tablecloths and table arrangements.

Bianca Richards, the president of WISPPA, reports on the group’s recent accomplishments at its 9th annual WISPPA Cocktail Party.

The annual cocktail party has become an event attended by many elected officials and community leaders. California State Senator Anthony Portantino and Assemblymember Chris Holden sent representatives. Some South Pasadena city council, board of education, and PTA members attended. The city treasurer and the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce were there, as well. Members of the Pasadena City College Board of Trustees and the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District Board were also guests. Representatives of utilities, real estate companies, city commissions and the League of Women Voters, among others, were also present.

DeWolfe, who has been in office since November 2017, used the WISPPA event to announce the city’s priorities for the coming fiscal year beginning July 1. 

“Being able to maintain our own police and fire department is rare for a city our size,” she said, continuing her focus on public safety. “And it gives us a higher level of service and some of the best response times in the state.”

“The city wants to make sure the public safety departments have the resources they need to protect the community,” she added.

City Police Chief Art Miller, Fire Chief Paul Riddle, and a number of uniformed police and firefighters were in the audience.

Another priority is planning for emergencies, DeWolfe said. “We are upgrading the emergency operations center and continuing to prepare citizens for disaster,” she said.

A third one, the city manager continued, is road repair. This is based on a recent city-commissioned survey. “More than $3 million will be spent on this in the coming year,” she said. “Even Pasadena isn’t spending this much on their streets.”

Investing in the urban tree canopy is another goal, she said. Also extremely important, she said, is maintaining the water and sewer system.

“The city is unique in that it has its own water utility and has had this for more than 100 years,” she said.

Finally, she said, the city is looking at ways of expanding its communication with residents.

One example of this is the city’s upcoming website relaunch. “It will be more intuitive and on a mobile-friendly platform,” she said.

DeWolfe used the event to warn residents of an upcoming financial threat.

“A challenge to the Utility Users’ Tax [UUT] has been placed on the ballot for this fall by a group outside the city,” she said. If passed, this would cut $3.5 million from the annual budget, she said.

“The loss of the UUT would have significant impacts on the level of city services and the quality of life,” she said. “It’s a significant amount of money for a city our size, and no department will be spared from the cuts that will be required.” She said in July she and her staff will present recommendations to city council.

DeWolfe responded to three questions following her talk. All were on finances. She addressed one about specific cutbacks if the UUT was repealed posed by Mary Urquhart, who is a founding member of WISPPA. She responded that this will be determined shortly.

She also responded to a question about the city’s efforts to address the ongoing statewide pension issues, which has been reported on previously by this publication. She said that this would also be included in the upcoming report. When asked how much residents pay in Utility Users’ Taxes, she checked with a staff member and then answered, “about $60 a year.”

For more information about WISPPA, go to For information on upcoming city agendas, go to