TORRANCE — Do clothes really make the man?
At first glance, City Manager LeRoy John Jackson, with his wire-rimmed eyeglasses, wide, loud ties and cowboy boots, looks as though he belongs in rustic Kern County, not sophisticated Los Angeles County.
Indeed, Jackson grew up in Kern County's China Lake, the son of a civilian personnel administrator at the Naval Weapons Center there who later was elected county supervisor. But the people who work for Jackson, and some of the City Council members for whom he works, say he definitely belongs among Los Angeles County's top city administrators.
"LeRoy is bright and an extremely honest person," said Mayor Katy Geissert. "He's a straight arrow. He has responded evenly to the different members of the council."
"He's astute and knowledgeable," said Police Chief Donald Nash. "He has a good memory. He can recall when and how things happened in the city in the past."
Pay Raise Withheld
But now, 20 years after being hired to work in the city's Personnel Department and three years after his elevation to city manager, Jackson, 42, has fallen out of favor with some of the seven council members. The council last month decided on a 5-2 vote to withhold a 4% pay increase that was given to all executive staff members. Jackson's salary is $80,000 annually.
Jackson's quiet demeanor hides any disappointment, however.
"If I don't get the raise, it may be a signal that I should start looking elsewhere," he said simply in an interview last week.
Part of Jackson's calm attitude can be attributed to some personal decisions he made early in life.
"I believe in a time commitment to my family," said Jackson, who has six children ranging in age from 6 to 19. With his wife, Connie, and their children, he is active in Scouting and recently used three vacation days to attend camp with two of his sons.
He lives in an unpretentious six-bedroom house in southeast Torrance and regularly attends St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church in Redondo Beach.
"I bring my kids to work so they can have a better understanding of what I do," he said. "I have a strong partnership with my wife. We share responsibilities. I could not do what I do if she was not supportive."
Jackson and his wife were high school sweethearts and have been married for 22 years. They meet at least once a week for lunch.
Connie, a registered nurse who now teaches adult school classes in family relations, is protective of her husband.
"I don't like council meetings when he is chewed up," she said, noting that she watches live telecasts of the council meetings on cable television. "It upsets me to hear them say things that are not complimentary. I know that's not realistic, but it still hurts."
Jackson, however, said he welcomes the chance to hear the council members' concerns.
"I have seven bosses," he said. "I can talk to them individually, but its difficult to get a consensus of feeling of performance. I want to hear what they want me to do more of."
Long Beach Graduate
Jackson grew up in China Lake in the Mojave Desert and attended Bakersfield College for two years before attending California State University, Long Beach, where he received his undergraduate degree in political science and public administration.
Two months after graduating in 1966--and two days before his first child was born--Jackson took a job in Torrance's Personnel Department.
"It was very easy," he said. "It was the first job offered so I took it." He said that after accepting the job, he was offered a position in the Los Angeles County Planning Department and a teaching job with the Los Angeles Unified School District,
"If the offers had come in a different order, who knows where I'd be today," said Jackson, who is an avid reader of biographies, science fiction and detective novels and who likes to rebuild vintage cars. He has two Model Ts, a truck and a touring car, in his driveway awaiting his attention.
Promoted in 1968
In 1968, Jackson was promoted to the city manager's office as senior administrative assistant and was involved in the restructuring of the city's departments. "We were shifting out of the organizational designs of the '50s and '60s, and trying to define where we were going," he said.
Two years later, Jackson was moved up to assistant to the city manager, where he stayed until becoming chief assistant in 1978, and assistant city manager in 1981.
During that time, Jackson became the city's chief contract negotiator with the city's employee groups. In 1976, he began to get involved in the overall operation of the city, and in 1978 became chairman of the city's budget review team.
In May, 1982, former City Manager Edward Ferraro announced his retirement after 18 years and recommended that the city either appoint Jackson or conduct a national search for a replacement. Jackson was appointed, and took over Jan. 16, 1983.
Upbraiding Part of Job
Despite the current falling-out, Jackson--said that an occasional upbraiding is part of the job he loves.
"You tend to forget that this job is political in nature," said Jackson, who said he is not interested in elected office because of the time and energy needed to get elected and run for reelection.
He said that through his office is "the only way seven members of the community who were elected by the community to get things done, can get those things done.
"It is an exciting, stomach-churning system, to know that you are answerable to those seven individuals."