Lori Moss is a different kind of City Manager.

The 47-year-old Moss serves as the City Manager of Canyon Lake, the largest of only five gated communities in California, located North of Temecula between Lake Elsinore and Perris.

“The City used to be more of a weekend get-away, but now the demographics have really changed since it was founded in the 1960s,” she said. “It is not a retirement community and you do not have to be over 55 to live here.”

But like every city, gated or not, Canyon Lake does have its challenges in 2009.

One of the challenges in this master-planned community of almost 12,000 residents has been its budget. The median household income in 2007 was $79,634.

“The City Council made some hard decisions prior to the approval of the fiscal year budget they made some major cuts in the budget,” she said. “We had a vacant City Clerk position they decided not to fill at this time. Also, I voluntarily took a cut to part time; I work four days a week (4/9s) versus five, like a lot of cities are doing.”

Now approaching her third year, Moss said things have definitely changed since she first began in the role.

“I am enjoying the job, but politically, we have had some challenging issues going on. In November, there were three Council seats up and all three incumbents ran and they all lost their seats,” she said. “So, we have three new members and they have hit the ground running and they are very dedicated. Also, the City Council had to censure one of the Council members at the September meeting.”

But while the staff may have shrunk, Moss said that overall the workday hasn’t really changed that drastically.

“The City has only three employees,” she said. “We’re used to being bare boned. I am proud to be the City Manager here and the awesome thing is that we have almost two years of funding in our reserves, so we are good shape. We did have to dip into those reserves a little bit because of the expenses — even with the cuts – we’re more than the projected revenue. We were very conservative on our projected revenue; our biggest expenses are providing fire and police services.”

Canyon Lake is considered a contract City with building, planning, engineer, police, fire, library, animal control, National Pollution Discharge Standards and trash all contract, all of which Moss manages.

“I think next year is also going to be difficult for cities in California,” she said. “But, the other good news about Canyon Lake, other than that we have some nice reserves is that our homes are for the most part custom. We have projected that when the economy does bounce back, we will be one of the first that will recover.”

Unlike most cities, Canyon Lake doesn’t have a downtown area and most residents have to go outside of its gates for goods and services. Granted it does have a few restaurants, but the bulk of the business is service-oriented such as banks, insurance companies, attorneys, and nail and hair businesses.

“Primarily, we have a commercial center,” she said. “But, if someone needs a major service, they go down to Lake Elsinore or to the new City of Menifee.”

Is this a problem for Canyon Lake’s residents?

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of our residents complain about living in a gated community or that there is any inconvenience living in Canyon Lake,” she said. “They chose to live here and the amenities of the lake are wonderful.”

Besides the five-member City Council, Canyon Lake also has the Canyon Lake Property Owners Association, also with its own five-member board.

“The City Council and the Canyon Lake Property Owners Association have a great working relationship,” she said. “There isn’t any overlap in services; they take care of everything within the gates, i.e., the roads, parks, etc. “Our role is everything else; the State required mandates, trash collection, police, and fire …”

The most important job at the moment for the City Council is the enforcement of the NPDES to protect the water quality of the lake.

“All excess debris, and oils, etc., that hit the roads, go directly into the lake, so if someone’s washing the undercarriage of their car, it goes straight into the lake,” she said. “There are State laws that prohibit these actions. So, we have a special enforcement team that works for the City that goes out and looks for people who are doing these things.”

As a result, contractors aren’t allowed to wash their paintbrushes in the street, nor are residents allowed to put their trash in anything other than their trash bins.

“We educate everyone that everything that gets onto the street, goes into the lake,’ she said. “It’s the same concept as urban run-off. For the most part, the campaign has really taken off and people are well aware of it. Every year, the State strengthens the standards and it is an unfunded mandate from the State to the City. That budget gets bigger because of the requirements.”

If anyone is found guilty of these offenses and many more related to road pollution, they are issued fines that could range from $100 to $500.

“This is a very serious issue that we don’t take lightly here,” she said. “And for the most part, people are complying.”

Prior to her current role, Moss was the City Manager of the City of Murrieta for more than two years.

“It is getting challenging in this economic climate, but I do want to stay in the government field,” she said. “I started as a County Planner and I have been in the government field since 1985, but it has certainly changed.”

The writer, Debbie L. Sklar is a 20-plus year journalism veteran residing in Southern California, where she is a writer, columnist and editor for many local, regional and national publications. She is a regular contributor to PublicCEO.com and may be reached via e-mail at  DLSwriter@cox.net