After a couple of missteps having to do with unpaid parking tickets and off-message Tweets, Oakland Mayor-elect Jean Quan has once again regained the momentum that pushed her to victory last month by assembling a top-notch and diverse group of experts to aid her transition to office next month.
Henry Gardner, former Oakland city manager and recently retired executive director of the Association of Bay Area Governments, will serve as chair of the 24-member volunteer transition advisory committee.
The committee will meet this month and next to focus on challenges and opportunities Quan will likely encounter during her first year in office, offer guidance and help set priorities.
Quan, the first woman and first Asian-American to serve as Oakland's mayor, reached out to the three other top finishers in the race, and two of the transition team members are their recommendations. Former state Sen. Don Perata did not respond, Quan said.
Regardless, the committee is a diverse cross-section of Oakland's business, art, education, recreation, preservation, labor and housing interests. Michael Ghielmetti, president of Signature Properties, is on the team. So are Michael Morgan, maestro of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, and Edward Yu, president of the Chinese American Citizens' Association. Several community, neighborhood and regional organizations are represented. Oakland police Chief Anthony Batts and retired interim fire Chief Gerald Simon are also on the committee.
"It's an interesting mix of people, a good focus group," Quan said. "These are tough times. I may not agree with (their recommendations) but I definitely want to listen. I'm actually hopeful that some new ideas and processes will come from this."
Both Quan and Gardner spoke of Oakland's many assets, and neither doubted they would get a large number of very qualified applicants for the city administrator position.
Gardner called it a "critical time for Oakland."
"Oakland is a very demanding community," he said Thursday afternoon. "Residents expect excellent service and deserve that."
A call has already gone out to solicit bids from executive search firms that are willing to find Oakland's next city administrator, and Quan said she is hoping to have someone on board by February. While it would be great to choose a woman or a person of color, she said, choosing "the best person" is her priority.
Whoever it is will have to be amenable to a hands-on style of boss, as Quan herself said she "wants to be more of a hands-on mayor."
When asked if she already had in mind specific changes in personnel or structure of various departments, Quan was diplomatic.
"I don't expect Chief Batts to go anywhere but I do plan to do a thorough review of each department to meet my goal of a new budget by early March," Quan said. "I've asked every department to put together a plan for the next two years; what they would change.
"I'm open to discussion," she added. "This is a chance for certain departments and persons to reinvent themselves."