Articles

L.A. Deputy Mayor Rick Cole Hired as Santa Monica City Manager

As Mayor Eric Garcetti's top adviser, Cole is recognized for his work incorporating new technology at various agencies and helping balance the city's budget.

by David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times / May 28, 2015

(TNS) -- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s top advisor on financial issues is leaving to take a job running the city of Santa Monica, officials said Wednesday.

Deputy Mayor Rick Cole, who handles budget and innovation strategies for Garcetti, will become the new city manager of the beach community. His hiring was announced by Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown following a closed-door meeting by the council.

McKeown said all seven members of the council "agreed without hesitation" to hire Cole.

"He comes here with a wealth of experience, and all of us are confident that Rick Cole and Santa Monica are going to be a great match," he said.

Cole, who lives in Los Feliz, is the third deputy mayor to announce a departure from Garcetti's office in the last six months. Doane Liu, who handled basic services, left for an executive post at the Port of Los Angeles. Eileen Decker, who handles public safety issues, was nominated this year to become the top federal prosecutor for the Los Angeles area.

Kelli Bernard, who handles economic development, is the only remaining deputy mayor who started with Garcetti in 2013, the year he took office. Garcetti also saw his spokesman, Yusef Robb, depart in recent days.

In a statement, Garcetti praised Cole for helping him balance the budget and incorporate new technology at various city agencies.

"Santa Monica will benefit from his talent, experience and commitment to public service," the mayor said.

Cole, 61, has experience in a handful of municipalities across Southern California. He served on the Pasadena City Council, including a stint as mayor. He went on to become city manager for the San Gabriel Valley city of Azusa and, more recently, Ventura. When Garcetti hired him, he had been working as the acting director of the Local Government Commission, a nonprofit group based in Sacramento.

In an interview, Cole said he had expected to stay with Garcetti until the end of the administration. But he viewed the position in Santa Monica as a huge opportunity, in part because of next year’s opening of the Expo light-rail line, which will have its terminus near the 3rd Street Promenade.

Santa Monica is “a progressive city. It’s a well-run city. It has the resources to do some incredible things,” he said. “And with the coming of the Expo line, it’s got some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”

Cole served as deputy mayor at a time when Garcetti put a focus on basic services. Garcetti's most recent budget plan, which easily won approval from the City Council last week, emphasized trash pickup, sidewalk repairs and tree trimming.

While at L.A. City Hall, Cole also maintained a lively presence on social media, offering opinions that may not always have been shared by his boss.

At one point last summer, he went on Twitter and hurled an insult at then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Months later, he tweeted his opinion of former Mayor Richard Riordan’s autobiography, saying it lacked humility and humor. “Blame the ghostwriter?” he wrote.

On Wednesday, the day the Santa Monica council announced his hiring, Cole sounded off on a Times story about labor unions seeking an exemption for some workplaces from the minimum wage ordinance. His assessment was blunt: “WTF?” he wrote.

The Tweet was later deleted.

©2015 the Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.