Michael Kovac/Wireimage
Sara Hammel
March 07, 2014 05:30 PM

Leonardo DiCaprio can feel supremely welcome in Palm Springs. The mayor himself will make sure of it.

“He has his privacy to do anything he wants here, and to relax – just like stars 30 or 40 years ago,” mayor Steve Pougnet told PEOPLE of the city’s most famous new resident at Thursday’s opening of the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs.

The actor, 39, has bought Dinah Shore’s old 7,000-sq.-ft. home in the Old Las Palmas neighborhood for $5.2 million. The estate is gorgeous, of course. But Pougnet plans to ask DiCaprio why he chose Palm Springs in the first place.

“When I see him, which I’m sure I will, I’m sure he’ll give a great reason,” says Pougnet. “It’s out of the intensity, out of the pressure. Every star – I’ve been mayor for seven years – when they came here, they knew they could be here. They just weren’t overwhelmed. With Leonardo now here, [he’s] part of the community. They know you’re not going to rush them on the street. They know you’re here to relax.”

The relatively young and buff Pougnet, a local celebrity in his own right, gave a shout-out to the Oscar nominee at the Hard Rock event. “Who are we going to be partying with?” he yelled to the audience. “Leonardo DiCaprio!”

And what will Pougnet have to say to DiCaprio when they do meet up?

“I would just let Leonardo know, listen, Las Palmas is a great neighborhood,” says Pougnet. “It’s where Elizabeth Taylor, Dinah Shore and a lot of really old Hollywood stars built these houses. Just to let him know that, listen, you’re here, and your privacy will always be respected, and we hope you engage in the community, and it’s a wonderful thing that he was looking for a home.”

It’s great for Palm Springs, too, of course, which Pougnet says is going through a renaissance.

“Leonardo will be one of our younger big stars,” he says. “To have a new Hollywood icon come and buy a Hollywood icon’s house is like magic.”

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