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Katz to Resign as McCarthy's Chief Aide

December 22, 1988|ALAN CITRON | Times Staff Writer

Alan Katz, who retired from the Santa Monica City Council last month after serving as a fence-mender between the city's rival political factions, is also resigning as Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy's chief of staff, The Times has learned.

Katz said he expects to leave in March to join his family's Culver City group health insurance business, and he said he will also look into other career opportunities.

"I'm looking for something that gives me stability," Katz said. "These last three years have been rather intense, so it's time for a breather."

'Quick Study'

The gregarious Katz, 35, who has often been called a political comer on the Westside, said he has no plans to seek another public office. However, he will serve as McCarthy's appointee to the California Commission for Economic Development.

Katz has held the $70,000-a-year chief of staff's post since March, 1987. Besides running McCarthy's office, which includes a staff of 32 and requires twice-weekly trips to Sacramento, and attending to Santa Monica City Council business, he devoted much of his spare time to McCarthy's unsuccessful Senate campaign.

McCarthy gave Katz high marks for his performance, calling him a "quick study with a marvelous sense of humor." But Katz, who is newly married and thinking of starting a family, said the unrelenting pace has taken its toll.

"Right now I want to rest," he said. "I'm exhausted."

Katz, a former investigating attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission, has strong ties to Westside Democratic organizations, but was relatively unknown outside those circles when he was first appointed to the Santa Monica City Council in 1985.

He soon earned a reputation as a mediator on a council that was otherwise composed of people aligned with Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights and the All Santa Monica Coalition, the city's political factions.

When the two sides emerged from the 1986 election with three council seats each, Katz's role grew stronger. It was often he who stepped in and coaxed a compromise when the two sides locked horns over major issues.

Katz said he is proudest of helping to forge an agreement on financing for neighborhood organizations, which had become highly political themselves, by creating a centralized "neighborhood center" that serves the entire city.

Katz also played a major role in creating the city's restaurant smoking ordinance, and sponsored an annual city forum on the AIDS epidemic.

'Things Have Cooled'

"I hope that the legacy from my three years on the council is that you don't have to be allies to move forward," Katz said. "Decisions are stronger when they're made together. . . . There are still things that divide the factions. These people still have their ideals. But things have cooled."

The Rev. James Conn, who was mayor during most of Katz's tenure, said Katz had a talent for bringing the city's opposing sides to agreement.

"He did a good job of walking that line," Conn said. "There were several times that he forced the two sides of the council to talk to each other and work together . . . and I doubt there was anyone else who could have enabled that to happen."

Conn, however, said Katz never seemed to enjoy the job.

"One thing that was a surprise to me was how much Alan loathed public office," Conn said. "He just hated the word. . . . On several occasions, he commented on how much he disliked the actual work of the council . . . the drudgery, the interminable hearings. You want things to be win-win. But there's always a degree of no-win. And I think those were the aspects of the job that Alan didn't like."

Councilwoman Christine E. Reed, the dean of the council, said Katz was best at shaping public policy. "Alan is not the forceful type of person who puts himself out front," Reed said. "He's generally in the background looking for ways to maneuver."

Katz conceded that he is better suited to the background role. But he said he learned a lot about public policy by serving in public office.

"One thing I learned by being behind the scenes and elected at same time is that you don't need to hold office to make a difference for the better," he said. "I enjoy making a difference. Elected office is one avenue. But appointed office is another. I don't feel a deep need to see my name on a ballot."

Those who know Katz, however, say they would not be surprised to see him re-enter the fray, especially if there's an opening at the legislative or congressional level.

Kam Kuwata, a Santa Monica- based political consultant who has known Katz for several years, said Katz has made valuable contacts as McCarthy's chief of staff. Kuwata said Katz's name would have to appear on everyone's "short list" of potential candidates on the Westside.

"Once you have the political bug you never get rid of it," Kuwata said. "And he's very young. I think there's still a twinkle in his eye when you raise the prospect of political office."

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