Local News

Council launches search to replace CAO Santana

LOS ANGELES — City Councilman David Ryu has called for a nationwide search to find the successor to Los Angeles’ top adviser to the mayor and City Council after Miguel Santana announced last week that he is stepping down.

Santana is leaving after seven years of serving as the city’s chief administrative officer to become CEO of the Los Angeles County Fair Association, which manages the Fairplex in Pomona. His last official day on the job is Jan. 16.

“Keeping our city’s finances in order to deliver more for our neighborhoods is one of our most important responsibilities,” Ryu said Dec. 5. “The city must conduct a nationwide search to identify an independent candidate with the astute knowledge, leadership and vision to advise the city’s policy makers.

“Although it may be tempting to quickly pick a successor for this vital position, it is important that the city take its time to identify a candidate who will lead with pragmatic and independent counsel.”

Santana directs the city’s day-to-day financial management, leads the city’s negotiations with its employee labor groups and heads up an office that provides advice and support on a variety of policy issues for the city.

Ryu had words of praise for Santana.

“Miguel Santana is regarded as one of the toughest fiscal hawks and innovative problem solvers in the city of Los Angeles,” Ryu said. “During his tenure as the city administrative officer, he was instrumental in the recovery efforts from the city’s budget shortfalls and pushed for difficult decisions to protect taxpayer dollars. Mr. Santana’s pragmatic leadership earned him the reputation as an effective and honest advisor to the mayor and the 15 City Council members.”

Santana came to the city while its leaders were grappling with the effects of the economic fallout of the Great Recession.

“Keeping our fiscal house in order is one of the most important responsibilities we have to the people of Los Angeles, and Miguel Santana has done an excellent job guiding that effort,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “I am grateful for his years of service, and I know the example he set will continue to help us manage Angelenos’ tax dollars as effectively and responsibly as possible.”

Santana said it was “an honor to help our city overcome difficult economic challenges, and seize new opportunities to improve the quality of life for Angelenos.”

“I’ve been fortunate to work with Mayor Garcetti, along with so many other committed leaders, and I look forward to continuing my public service in a new role.”

Santana leads an office that also provides advice and support on a variety of policy issues for the city, including homelessness and the citywide minimum wage increase. He worked with city leaders to craft Proposition HHH, a bond measure to raise money to build housing for the homeless.

Officials with the Los Angeles County Fair Association, the nonprofit that manages the Fairplex in Pomona, described the hiring of Santana as a “game-changer” for their organization.

The association is coming off a rocky year in which its previous CEO, James Henwood Jr., resigned after the Los Angeles Times reported that in 2014, he earned about $1 million in compensation, which is considered unusually high pay for someone in his position. The association was also the subject of audits  that found fault with the way it runs the Fairplex and handles its revenue.

Santana will receive an annual base salary of $485,000, with the chance to earn a 10-percent bonus, the Times reported.

The 47-year-old vowed to revamp the fairground’s mission and relationship to the surrounding communities and to Los Angeles County and city leaders.

“This is 500 acres of pure potential,” Santana said. “My hope is that by forging even closer ties with nearby communities, local educational institutions and county, federal, state and local public officials, we will transform the mission of Fairplex into a lifestyle — one that creates a 21st century sustainable community and economic engine grounded in its agricultural roots, from the microsourcing of our food and craftsmanship to culinary entrepreneurship.”

Santana, who was the deputy chief executive officer of Los Angeles County prior to going to the city, described his move as “a return back to the county family.”

Michael Ortiz, the chair of the association’s board, touted Santana as someone who has been able to successfully take on tough problems in the city and county.

“We are gratified to have found someone with Miguel’s vision, management expertise and history of dedicated public service,” Ortiz said.

During his 24-year career in county and city government, Miguel has tackled some of the region’s most intractable problems with amazing results.”

Prior to serving as deputy chief executive officer of Los Angeles County, Santana served as a deputy to former county Supervisor Gloria Molina.

 

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