Perhaps better known for his stoic presence at Orange County Board of Supervisors meetings, County Chief Executive Officer Mike Giancola showed a more informal side Thursday morning, chatting with members of Newport Beach's business community.

He spoke at the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce's monthly Wake Up! Newport event.

"Sometimes my friends ask, 'Are you crazy? Why would you want that job?' And when I have my two fingers of Scotch at night I sometimes wonder," Giancola said of his post as the county's top manager, drawing chuckles.

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But really, Giancola said, he was fortunate to be among few county employees who have worked their way through the system: He started out decades ago as a part-time attendant at Mile Square Park.

Now that he oversees a government comprising of thousands of employees, he said, it's his office's task to ensure that the county is efficient as possible.

To that end, Giancola said, he plans to "build a bench" of strong leaders who can help standardize practices across county departments.

He told the group that although the county's financial state was improving — with this year's assessment roll of property values up by 6.42% over last year — the money the county was forced to set aside after it lost a legal battle with the state over a disputed chunk of vehicle license fee revenue was "shocking."

After that, he said, trips to Sacramento on the county's behalf were difficult.

"We couldn't even get in the door," he said, adding that the state government is stingy when it comes to returning tax dollars to Orange County because "They think Orange County is all Newport Beach."

Instead, cuts hit lower-income residents — "your own employees," he said.

Still, Giancola said, "We're trying to take a more positive stature with the state."

He also assured the audience that a suggestion by the Orange County Grand Jury that caps on John Wayne Airport's operations have a negative impact on the area economy isn't likely to sway the county into lifting the constraints.

Asked whether he knew the report was coming, he said he recalled talking with the grand jury, but he didn't know specifically that there would be a report pertaining to JWA.

In any case, Giancola said, the Board of Supervisors and the county can always vote to disagree with the report, "and move on."