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Villaraigosa Rounds Out His Team

Robin M. Kramer, who held the same job in the Riordan administration, will be his chief of staff. He also names education and economic aides.

June 18, 2005|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa tapped a group of Los Angeles City Hall veterans Friday for his senior staff, naming Robin M. Kramer as his chief of staff, a job she held under Mayor Richard Riordan.

Kramer, who has been heading Villaraigosa's transition team, will oversee a staff that includes Marcus Allen and Jimmy Blackman as deputy chiefs of staff. Allen is the top deputy to City Controller Laura Chick, and Blackman is chief of staff for Villaraigosa's council office.

Villaraigosa also appointed Carolyn Webb de Macias, the vice president for external relations at the USC, as a senior advisor on such issues as education.

And bringing in a heavy hitter to push economic development, which he has promised to make a top priority, Villaraigosa named current city redevelopment director Robert "Bud" Ovrom as deputy mayor for community and economic development.

"I am extremely pleased that these talented individuals have agreed to join with me in building a better Los Angeles," Villaraigosa said in a statement. "As I set out to bring the best and the brightest to City Hall, this senior team establishes the gold standard."

Villaraigosa, who takes office July 1 after defeating Mayor James K. Hahn in the May 17 election, signaled that he crafted his new team to help him implement his ambitious agenda.

On Friday, Villaraigosa said he would like to have power to appoint all of the members of the city school board, and he has also proposed adding 1,300 police officers to the force and a major extension of the city subway system.

"Change is never easy, and we have a lot of rough waters ahead," Villaraigosa said. "I feel certain that these leaders will skillfully help steer the ship toward a Los Angeles of which we can all be proud."

Kramer, 52, who is an executive with billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad's foundation, said her recent work has given her the experience to help Villaraigosa press his goals. "I think I bring idealism, but also pragmatism, to the job," she said.

Kramer said she initially turned down the chief of staff job but agreed to return to City Hall after heavy lobbying by Villaraigosa.

"He's very persuasive. He had asked me several times to take it, and I said, 'No, no, no,' " Kramer said.

The turning point came last Saturday when she called the mayor-elect at 9 a.m., and he told her he was tired because he had been up all night helping to settle a hotel labor dispute. "I paused, because what occurred to me at that moment was this was leadership, breathtaking leadership," Kramer said.

On Wednesday, when Villaraigosa asked her again to accept the job, she said yes. "I just felt honored and compelled," she said.

Having also previously served as the chief of staff to Councilman Richard Alatorre, Kramer provides Villaraigosa's office with critical experience and knowledge of the city bureaucracy, experts say.

"It is an exceptional and exciting appointment," said Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski. "Villaraigosa is the policy person. Robin can make his policies happen."

Raphael Sonenshein, a political scientist at Cal State Fullerton, said Kramer is a perfect choice. "She's got tons of experience. She's widely well-regarded," he said. "She has experience both with the council and the mayor's office."

Kramer previously headed the mayor's office from 1995 to 1998 as Riordan's chief of staff. She started working for Riordan in 1993 as his deputy mayor for community and legislative affairs.

Kramer said she left the chief of staff job feeling worn out, regretting that its enormous demands on her time caused tension in her family. Now, she said, her youngest son has graduated from high school and she has the time to commit to the post.

Kramer will leave her current position as senior director at the Broad Foundation, which works to raise student achievement in major urban school districts. Allen, 44, has been with the controller's office since 2000, most recently as chief deputy controller. He lives in Carlsbad but spends the week with family in Woodland Hills to be close to his job.

Blackman, a 33-year-old Westchester resident, has worked with Villaraigosa since his early days as a state assemblyman.

Webb de Macias, who was chief of staff for Mark Ridley-Thomas when he was a councilman, plans to take a one-year sabbatical from the university. She is 57 years old and lives in Alhambra.

Ovrom, 59, is the chief executive officer for the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, a position he has held since 2003. Before that, he was city manager in Burbank for 18 years.

A Burbank resident, Ovrom becomes the first appointee of a Hahn commission to be retained.

Also Friday, KB Homes confirmed that it had contributed $100,000 to the LA's BEST after-school program by buying tickets for that amount to a black-tie dinner presided over by Villaraigosa on June 30, the night before the inauguration.


Times staff writer Jessica Garrison contributed to this report.

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