Fountain Valley’s new city manager-to-be gets a surprise — lunch with the Dalai Lama – Orange County Register

FOUNTAIN VALLEY It’s safe to say Rob Houston has never had a day quite like the one when he was named Fountain Valley’s city manager.

On Tuesday, June 20, the day he was to sign a contract to lead a city for the first time in his career, Houston was invited to lunch by Mayor Pro Tem Michael Vo as his plus-one.

The two wound up being special guests of the Dalai Lama, who was passing through the Southland. They shared a table with the spiritual leader of Tibet at a private luncheon at Newport Center’s Island Hotel.

“It was very surreal,” Houston said of the surprise call from Vo.

Houston said he figured he would be part of a group of 1,000. Instead, he ended up at the table with His Holiness

“We get to literally have lunch with him,” Houston said. “I was just so honored.”

After six years in Newport Beach, Houston is realizing his dream of running a city. The former deputy city manager of Newport Beach emerged from a field of 40 candidates to become the new Fountain Valley city manager.

Houston, who interviewed for the position in early June, was formally announced at Tuesday’s council meeting. He starts July 31 and will make $210,000 a year, officials said.

Houston got a view of politics Fountain Valley-style at that meeting, as residents engaged in a lively debate over the merits of the proposed Fountain Valley Crossings plan, which would rezone 162 acres and could lead to the development of a high-density housing, retail and entertainment district.

Houston, 50, said he was actually happy to see the discourse.

“There may be differences in opinion, but I’m OK with that when the community is engaged,” he said.

Houston replaces interim city manager John Sibley, who served as a bridge after Bob Hall resigned in March after three years in the position.

“I had aspired to move up,” Houston said. “I was looking for a good community that ties in with my values.”

Mayor John Collins said many of Houston’s views aligned with the majority…

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