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Orange County

New Leader for Troubled Planning Department

Assistant director Speegle becomes chief after helping retool the cash-strapped agency.

June 28, 2003|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Orange County picked a familiar face Friday to manage its Planning and Development Services Department, naming Bryan Speegle to the job nearly a year after the agency plunged into an $8-million deficit.

Speegle became the department's assistant director in 2001 under former director Thomas B. Mathews, who retired in January amid massive layoffs in the gutted department.

Before that, Speegle spent three years managing the county's environmental analysis of plans to build an airport at the El Toro Marine base. That plan was killed by voters last year.

Despite Speegle's tenure at two controversial departments, he was hailed Friday as instrumental in restructuring the battered planning agency and reforming how building permit fees are collected in Orange County. His salary will be $130,000 a year.

"Bryan's help has been invaluable in making several important improvements," at the planning agency, Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom Wilson said in a statement.

There were 80 applicants for the job "and we hired the right person," said acting County Executive Officer James D. Ruth.

Mathews acknowledged last August that the department was $2 million in the red and asked supervisors for an $8-million loan to cover expenses through June. Supervisors later said the loan couldn't be repaid amid department deficits approaching $1 million in some months.

Since January, the department has been supervised by Larry Leaman, who retired the same month as head of the Social Services Agency.

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