If the early bird gets the worm, Councilwoman Verna Rollinger must be licking her chops.

Rollinger officially kicked off her reelection campaign Sunday with a fundraiser attended by about 100 supporters.

"I am often asked why I do what I do," Rollinger said. "Just saying I like it isn't enough. I always think we can do better. "We [Laguna] do better than anyone else, but we can always improve.

"But do I like what I do? I love what I do, and I love all of you for making it possible. I hope to be reelected."

Rollinger would have been a shoe-in if the election been held Sunday in the backyard of the fundraiser's hosts, Kathy and Mike Conway.

"We are out in force for Verna," said Audrey Prosser, past president of the Laguna Beach Democratic Club.

The club is geared up for the local and national election next year, Prosser said.

"We have been planning for 2012, and we have the money to open a headquarters," Prosser said. "Now we need to raise the funds to keep it open."

The club supported Rollinger in 2008, when she won a seat on the council in her second try. She says the past three years have been an eye-opener for her.

"I knew the night that I was sworn in (Dec. 2, 2008) that I had my work cut out for me." Rollinger said. "I knew all the council members, but the relationship would be different.

Rollinger was city clerk for almost 30 years.

"I don't think I truly understood what it meant to be on the council beyond what you see on TV,"

The hours spent preparing for the televised meetings require diligence and knowledge. Rollinger had to learn a lot in a short time about issues in which she had not been previously involved.

"It was a huge learning curve, but it was exciting," Rollinger said.

She did her homework and attended myriad meetings to get up to speed on issues and actions outside her comfort zone — such as the permits issued by the state Regional Water Quality Board in San Diego.

Rollinger also attended meetings with other advocates on the Marine Protection Act, which led to a city-wide ban on fishing for at least five years.

"We were the only group that attended the meetings consistently," Rollinger said. "That's what it takes in politics."

Rollinger said she knew little about business, except the economy was tanking, when she volunteered to serve on the Business Assistance Task Force. The task force made 15 recommendations, which the council approved.

"I like to think they are helping," Rollinger said.

Currently, Rollinger chairs the Laguna Canyon Flood Mitigation Task Force, sits on the city's Irvine Bowl events planning and grounds improvement committee and the Complete Streets Task Force. She also has a seat on the Greenbelt Authority and the board of Laguna Canyon Foundation.

"I am looking forward to the Open Space Initiative," Rollinger said. "It is important to keep open space in our neighborhoods open."

The initiative would give voters the opportunity to decide the merits of a proposal to purchase undeveloped urban parcels to be preserved as open space.

Rollinger's kick-off fundraiser also included a silent auction, with donations of art, jewelry and services. Guests could bid on up to the value of the item, without impinging on their own donation to the candidate.

Almost a third of the guests had already donated the maximum $360 legal contribution to her campaign, Rollinger said.

Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly, who was elected with Rollinger in 2008 is also expected to be a candidate, with more time to campaign when she retires in June from teaching family law. Rumors also have former Councilman Steve Dicterow and Planning Commissioner Bob Whalen in the race.

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