PASADENA — Edward Aghjayan, a utilities consultant in Palo Alto, has been offered a newly created deputy city manager position, a move that the Armenian community claims as a victory in its longstanding effort to gain political clout here.
Aghjayan, 45, said last week that he has not decided whether to accept the $75,000-a-year job in which he would head the public works and water and power departments. Although he has discussed the offer several times with City Manager Donald F. McIntyre, Aghjayan said "it would be presumptuous of me to say anything at all right now" about the job.
A native of Boston and second-generation Armenian-American, Aghjayan has extensive experience in the public utilities field, he said. He has been the director of utilities for the cities of Austin, Tex., and Palo Alto, where he now runs his own consulting firm.
Pasadena's increasingly influential Armenian community is "extremely pleased" about the offer to Aghjayan, said Bill Paparian, a local attorney and spokesman for the city's Armenian population, which makes up about 10% of Pasadena's residents.
"The city manager is an extremely powerful position and having an Armenian as his assistant means that we're doing the right things," Paparian said.
In the past year, the Armenian community has gained political strength here. In March, Pasadena became the first city in the country to include Armenians as a protected class under affirmative action guidelines. Armenians, like blacks and Latinos, are now classified as an official minority in Pasadena and must be recruited for city jobs and contracts.
To Paparian, the city's job offer to Aghjayan is directly related to the recent classification of Armenians as a protected minority.
"We think it ties in with the affirmative action ordinance," Paparian said. "Having someone in the No. 2 position of city staff is an extremely effective role model for our community."
However, city officials and Aghjayan said the ordinance had little, if anything, to do with the offer.
"The fact that there is a growing Armenian community and that Pasadena has addressed that is interesting," Aghjayan said. "But I've always looked at every job from the standpoint of my qualifications."
Aghjayan also said that he is not active in Armenian affairs in Palo Alto.
Earlier this year, the Board of City Directors approved two deputy city manager positions as part of a far-reaching reorganization of Pasadena government that was designed to save about $180,000 a year by eliminating several mid- and upper-level management positions.
Position on Hold
The other deputy city manager position, which was to oversee police, fire, paramedics and community services, has been put on hold. Three weeks ago, city directors rejected McIntyre's choice for the job, Bill Lewis, a 23-year veteran of City Hall who is director of the Employee and Community Services Agency. Lewis left that job on sick leave after directors expressed concern that his health problems would prevent him from carrying out the deputy city manager's duties.
McIntyre has said that he is reevaluating whether to fill that position at all.
Meanwhile, Aghjayan said he is continuing to discuss his job offer with McIntyre.
After adopting the reorganization plan in April, city officials had said they were interested in recruiting qualified minorities for the deputy city manager positions and hired an independent firm to conduct a nationwide search.
Director Loretta Thompson-Glickman said last week that although the city actively sought a minority for the job, she did not know if that influenced McIntyre's choice.
"We had nothing to do with that," Thompson-Glickman said. "That's the city manager's decision. He told us that he had made an offer."