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The Inner Circle

June 11, 1995|John Schwada

Two years into his first term, Richard Riordan has assembled an inner circle of prominent players from the worlds of law, commerce and academia--backed by a supporting cast of well-placed insiders who know their way around the Spring Street Establishment.

Top billing goes to three:

* Bill Wardlaw. His name can't be found on the City Hall payroll. But if there is an indespensable player on Team Riordan, it is this publicity-shy 48-year-old attorney. Riordan's former law partner, a deal-maker for a leveraged buyout firm. It was Wardlaw, a Pasadena resident, who, along with his attorney wife, Kim, persuaded Riordan to run for mayor. And it was Wardlaw, a conservative democrat prominent in President Clinton's efforts to win California and in the 1986 drive to oust former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Bird, who crafted the strategy that allowed a 62-yea-old multimillionaire Republican businessman to be elected mayor of heavily Democratic Los Angeles.

* William Ouchi. With his quiet, courtly manners, Ouchi, 51, brings a touch of the academy to City Hall, where he is Riordan's chief of staff. The UCLA business professor, an expert on business orgaization, views City Hall with a jaundiced eye. "What we're really trying to do is create a modern management culture at City Hall," says Ouchi, whose paycheck is largely underwritten by a nonprofit foundation and by UCLA. The Santa Monica resident recently concocted a four-day retreat for the city8s top managers, with an eye to shaking up the hidebound bureaucrats. The buzz at City Hall, nevertheless, is that Ouchi is too theoretical.

* Michael Keeley. Budget czar. Tough taskmaster. Whiz kid. These are just some of the handles given to Keeley, 41, clearly the most influential of Riordan's six deputy mayors. Keeley was chief architect of the mayor's recent $3.89-billion budget and of an easy-to-read budget summary document that has drawn rave reviews. Impatient with City Hall ways, Keeley urged the bureaucracy to overhaul its operations. The result: a budget to hire 600 more police officers next fiscal year and launch initiatives to make City Hall more business-friendly. Insiders believe that Keeley, who is openly gay and a former attorney in Riordan's law firm, may be angling for the chief of staff post.

Supporting players:

* Deputy mayor Robin Kramer, 43, formerly a lobbyist and City Council aide, brings a knowledge of City Hall's history and psyche. Kramer, a Hancock Park resident, is Riordan's City Council liason, and her portfolio includes the press office.

* Attorney-developer Ted Stein, 38, is a senior adviser to the mayor and president of the Riordan-appointed Airport commission. Perhaps his biggest score for the mayor so far: a $58-million windfall of airpiort funds that helped balance this year's budget. The Encino resident is a holdover from the regime of former Mayor Tom Bradley, for which he was Planning Commission president.

* Another Bradley era survivor is attorney and Warner Bros. executive Dan Garcia, 48, president of the Community Redevelopment Agency commission, whose members also are appointed by the mayor. Garcia drafted a development reform streamlining package dear to Riordan's heart. Garcia is also on loan to the Airport Commission to draft a master plan for LAX.

* Retail real estate consultant Steve Soboroff, 47, is president of the city's Recreation and Parks Commission. Although Soboroff gained recognition recently as the mayor's point man in trying to clean up health and safety violations at the L.A Zoo, his first job for the Riordan Administration came when the mayor named him to the Harbor Commission--where he was a key player in the development of high-speed rail lines that will connect the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to train yards near Downtown.

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