Phillip B. Tsunoda has no problem burning the midnight oil.

He serves as the Mayor Pro Tem of Aliso Viejo, as well as the Chief of Staff for Supervisor Chris Norby of the Board of Supervisors of Orange County.

“The County of Orange is a fascinating place, we have a Board of Supervisors meeting tomorrow, so there is a lot of discussion the day before between the County staff and the five Board offices,” he tells “All have their own particular agendas and areas of interests, so it makes for an interesting process the day before.”

These are just some of the issues in the daily life of Tsunoda, 44, who takes both jobs to heart day in and day out.

“Like anyone else, there are 34 cities in the OC and all or most have five City Council members per city and most have full time jobs also,” he says. “So, I am not really an exception to the rule. It’s just a matter of balancing.”

For example, he has served as the Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Aliso Viejo since January where there have been some challenges.

“The biggest challenge by far, is the time management factor. While I thoroughly enjoy the role of Mayor Pro Tem, the challenge is managing my time between my full time job of being the Chief of Staff for a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, my family’s activities (e.g., kids sports teams, etc.) and my responsibilities as the Mayor Pro Tem, which requires, not only the City Council activities, but numerous ceremonial and leadership duties.”

As Chief of Staff

On the flip side, as Chief of Staff for Norby, where he is the senior aide and advisor, the role includes serving as the senior policy advisor for all issues that come before the Supervisor on all public policy matters. He is also responsible for the overall management of the Supervisor’s office and serves as the Supervisor’s representative when he is not present. In other words, he does have Norby’s ear most of the time.

“ I believe I have been effective both with the Supervisor and in Aliso Viejo with my expansive public policy background and broad-based experience in local government and in the area of governance,” he shares. “I believe my effectiveness is also contingent on the local and regional relationships I was able to cultivate in my professional career.”

As Mayor Pro Tem

Tsunoda says Aliso Viejo is challenged right now due to the poor economy, however residents are optimistic.

“Aliso Viejo has seen a decrease in its revenues because of the slumping economy.  In order to cut costs, we pro-actively negotiated our law enforcement contract with the Orange County Sheriff, specifically addressing the issue of reducing our overtime obligation. We also instituted a salary freeze.  Finally, there was no service levels that were affected because we are able to dip into our healthy reserves; which are available because we were prudent in year’s past and anticipate this economic downturn.”

The good news in Aliso Viejo is that there are some new housing developments taking place.

“We are seeing brisk sales in our new Glenwood development project, adjacent to the Aliso Viejo County Club Golf Course and our Conference and Aquatic Center and our Vantis mixed-use neighborhood,” he says. “The City of Aliso Viejo is also in negotiations for a yet-to-be developed senior housing apartment complex with a senior community center element.”

Tsunoda credits these good works to a strong Aliso Viejo City Council that works well together.

“The best advice for working best with my Council colleagues is to respect other points of view, have tremendous patience, and try and understand where my colleagues are coming from on a particular issue that is before us,” he says. “I have found the best solutions for a deliberative body is a collaborative one.”

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 and may be reached via e-mail at