COSTA MESA — City Atty. Kimberly Hall Barlow announced Thursday that she will step down March 1.

Barlow is not a city employee. Costa Mesa, like many small- and medium-size cities, contracts out for counsel.

"Both personal and business reasons compel this decision — other challenges require my attention," Barlow, who works for the Jones & Mayer law firm, wrote in a letter to city officials. "Words are insufficient to convey my gratitude to the council members who selected me for this important position, and those with whom I have served in my over six year tenure as your city attorney."

Barlow has worked for Jones & Mayer since 1993, focusing her practice on municipal law and litigation. She is also acting deputy city attorney for several other cities the law firm serves.

Barlow then threw deputy City Atty. Tom Duarte's hat in the ring as her successor.

"I will of course continue to serve you and the community to the best of my ability until that formal appointment process takes place," she wrote.

She said she will ask City Manager Allan Roeder to put the appointment of a new city attorney on the March 1 City Council agenda.

According to the Jones & Mayer law firm website, Duarte specializes in civil litigation and land use law. He's also legal counsel for the city Planning Commission.

In recent months, Barlow has been tasked with handling multiple city investigations, from then-Planning Commission Chairman and now Councilman Jim Righeimer's confrontation with police over the scheduling of a DUI checkpoint to Councilman Eric Bever accusing police of voter intimidation before the November elections.

Lately, she's walked council members through the legal hoops they'd have to jump through to outsource city services or lay off employees.

"I have enjoyed being a part of the Costa Mesa community, which truly is a wonderful, vibrant city with a caring business and residential citizenry," Barlow wrote. "I will miss it."