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Deanna Santana, Oakland's City Administrator, sits in a meeting in her office at Oakland City Hall in Oakland, Calif. on Monday, Aug. 5, 2013. Santana is coming up on her two-year anniversary as City Administrator. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND -- Deanna Santana is out as Oakland's top administrator, ending a tumultuous three-year tenure punctuated by her recent well-chronicled search for a new job outside the city.

In a statement released Monday, Mayor Jean Quan named Santana's top deputy, Fred Blackwell, as the new city administrator effective Tuesday.

The statement gave no reason for the shake up, but several sources said Quan, who is up for re-election this year, decided to make the change following Santana's failed bids earlier this year to land city manager jobs in Dallas and Phoenix.

Sources said that Santana's public declaration that she was looking for a new job had undercut her authority inside City Hall. It also left the city in limbo, with leaders hesitant to fill several open top jobs within the administration as long as Santana remained in place as a lame duck administrator, sources said.

In her statement, Quan thanked Santana as "a tireless worker and leader" and said she was excited to promote Blackwell, who came to Oakland three years ago as assistant city administrator.

"Anyone who works with Fred immediately recognizes that his reputation as a brilliant, dedicated, get-it-done leader is well deserved," she said.

Blackwell, who ran San Francisco's Redevelopment Agency before coming to Oakland, said in a prepared statement that he was "honored" by the promotion. "As an Oakland native, I've seen what this great city can be, and I'm excited about this point in my hometown's history."

Santana, 43, did not return phone calls Monday. Her contract runs into 2015. Quan's statement made no mention of a severance agreement.

Several council members praised Santana on Tuesday, citing her leadership in steering the city through the Occupy protests and a dramatic state funding cut.

"Deanna is one of the smartest, brightest people I've known." Councilman Larry Reid said. "I think her leaving is a loss for the city even with the job search,"

Santana, who served for years as San Jose deputy city manager, arrived in Oakland with great fanfare as the city's first professionally seasoned city administrator in nearly a decade.

She developed a reputation for decisiveness and being a stickler for the rules even if it brought her into conflict with politicians.

Santana evicted a popular but deteriorating Occupy Oakland encampment outside City Hall and laid down the law to council members who had grown accustomed to bossing around city staffers.

Privately she butted heads on policy issues with the mayor and had strained relations with some mayoral staffers from the beginning of her tenure.

Santana's decisiveness and her comfort in wielding authority won her support from residents frustrated by a city government that traditionally accepted a measure of institutional disorder. But those traits also led to decisions that put her in conflict with key constituencies, especially among those on the political left.

Santana became an easy villain last year in the eyes of city unions pushing for a raise. Union leaders accused her of intentionally underestimating revenue, and they were furious when the city stationed a police officer at negotiating sessions after union protesters stormed the office of one of Santana's deputies.

Left-leaning supporters of Quan recoiled at Santana's plan to cordon off the balconies in the City Council chambers after protesters seated there repeatedly interrupted meetings.

"I think she ended up being a bit too top down for the way we do things in Oakland," said Pamela Drake, a Quan supporter and former City Council aide. "We're a very engaged community. We don't like people dictating."

Santana also had strained relations with the city's federal police monitor, Robert Warshaw, who she accused of sexual harassment in 2012. A federal judge dismissed the claim and last month granted Warshaw sweeping power over the department, which has failed to satisfy reforms scheduled for completion nearly six years ago.

"I think after the police thing developed, it seemed like she lost enthusiasm for issues around the (reforms)," said John Burris, an attorney involved in the reform effort.

While Santana had her detractors, she also was widely praised for her smarts and work ethic. Under her leadership, the city jump-started major developments and developed a realistic assessment of its long-term financial plight.

"She's an extremely competent administrator who is willing to make tough decisions and unpopular ones," said Geoff Collins, a businessman who formerly led the Oakland Police Foundation.

Without Santana, Oakland appears short-handed when it comes to top administrators, especially those with financial expertise. The city's former financial expert, Scott Johnson, left his post as assistant city manager last year to take a job in Concord. Oakland also has an interim public works director and police chief.

But council members said they were confident that Blackwell, who has focused on development, was up to the task of leading the administration.

"I have great faith in Fred Blackwell and his ability to step up and be the city administrator," Councilwoman Pat Kernighan said. "I'm confident that he will be filling those positions very soon."

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.