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L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti makes key public works appointments

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti's latest appointments include Kevin James, a political supporter, to the Board of Public Works.

July 12, 2013|By David Zahniser
  • Kevin James is among new Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's latest appointments. James was a candidate for mayor and later supported Garcetti in the runoff election. He was appointed to the Board of Pulbic Works, a salaried position.
Kevin James is among new Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's latest… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Friday named third-place mayoral candidate Kevin James to the powerful Board of Public Works — the latest appointment to go to a political supporter.

James, a Republican radio host who campaigned aggressively for Garcetti in the run-up to the May 21 runoff election, was one of six new appointees announced by the newly installed mayor. He has already tapped former mayoral candidate Jan Perry, who also endorsed him in the campaign, to run a new economic development agency on an interim basis.

Other public works commissioners announced by Garcetti are Matt Szabo, former deputy chief of staff to former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa; Barbara Romero, a planning commissioner under Villaraigosa; Monica Rodriguez, an executive with the California Assn. of Realtors, and former Assemblyman Mike Davis, who represented part of South Los Angeles until last year.

Davis, like Perry and James, endorsed Garcetti during the mayoral campaign.

The public works board is the only city commission with full-time salaries. It oversees such nuts-and-bolts services as tree trimming, pothole filling, trash pickup and sewer maintenance. Each appointee earns more than $136,000 annually, according to the city's Personnel Department, and must be confirmed by the City Council.

James, 49, spent much of his mayoral campaign discussing the city's aging infrastructure, particularly roads. He said there is "no better place to get into the nitty-gritty of running a city than public works."

"Street services for me will be a big priority — getting potholes filled," he said. "I want to fill more potholes with less money."

During the campaign, James repeatedly came under fire from Garcetti's opponent, then-City Controller Wendy Greuel, and many of her supporters for disparaging remarks he made about immigrants in the country illegally. James said earlier this year he had changed his views on the topic after participating in immigrant workshops and learning about the barriers to citizenship.

James said he now favors naturalization for immigrants who have been in the United States for at least a decade and he supports California's version of the Dream Act, which guarantees access to college for students who have lived here most of their lives.

Garcetti also hired former Ventura City Manager Rick Cole to be his deputy mayor for budget and innovation. Cole is a former Pasadena mayor who has also served as city manager in the San Gabriel Valley city of Azusa.

Cole, 60, said he doesn't personally know Garcetti and didn't contribute to his mayoral campaign. But he supports the new mayor's "back to basics" vision, which has come up repeatedly during Garcetti's speeches and inaugural address.

"I believe in their message and I believe they are real about their message," he said.

Cole resigned from his job as Ventura city manager last year amid talk that he and a majority of the City Council had philosophical differences on several issues, including growth and development.

Garcetti has already named Doane Liu, a former chief of staff to Councilman Joe Buscaino, as his deputy mayor for city services. Two other deputy mayor posts have not been filled.

Times staff writer Catherine Saillant contributed to this report.

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