It didn't take long for Deanna Santana to realize she wasn't in San Jose anymore.
A week after she started her job as Oakland City Administrator, Carlos Nava, 3, was shot to death in his stroller on International Boulevard. The baptism by fire had just gotten started. Police Chief Anthony Batts quit. Then came Occupy Oakland. Gov. Jerry Brown disbanded redevelopment agencies. There were layoffs and budget cuts. Pressure from a federal judge to implement court-mandated reforms stemming from the Riders police misconduct lawsuit. Two more children were shot and killed in the streets. The feds started raiding Oakland's marijuana dispensaries. A deranged former student went into Oikos University and massacred seven people. President Obama came to town requiring major security preparations.
I sat down with Santana on the eve of her Aug. 1 anniversary to talk about her rollercoaster first year in Oakland and her future goals. (To listen to audio excerpts of that interview visit http://www.insidebayarea.com/tammerlin-drummond)
Q: You had an extremely challenging first year. Did you ever think, this just isn't worth it?
A: No! Never! (Though she did offer to resign after the backlash resulting from her order to forcibly remove the Occupy Oakland camp from Frank H. Ogawa Plaza)
Q: Shortly after you came on board Carlos Nava was killed. As a parent of two young children yourself, what went through your mind?
A: I'm standing next to the mother who is crying over her son, there was nothing I could say that would make anything better. It was my introduction to the reality of crime in Oakland in a very raw way.
Q: There is a public perception that city officials have not addressed violent crime and given it the focus that it merits. Your thoughts?
A: No strategic plan that the city has will ever make up for the reality of reduced officers over the last three or four or five years. We have great plans in place. This isn't something we are avoiding or ignoring. We continue to try new things and look at prevailing research but we are short on resources.
Q: You took a lot of heat for your decision to forcibly remove the Occupy Oakland encampment. What made you decide the tent camp had to go?
A: The decision became clear when a person who was staying in the plaza was beaten by a two-by-four and the word on the street was some of the folks who were also staying in the plaza took a trip to the coroner's office to see if his body had been turned in. Because they did not know if he would live or die because he was beaten so bad. The second time was driven by the homicide in the plaza.
Q: What was the most difficult decision you had to make?
A: If you look at the events that took place in January on the time that it took to address the dissolution of redevelopment, balance the budget and make a decision on the part of Council to become the successor agency, all in the short order of seven to 10 days, that was definitely the most challenging decision making time.
Q: What is your strategy for bringing new businesses into the city?
A: We are now focused on looking at how to bring life to the Broadway corridor. (Now that Coliseum City and the Army Base project are launched) We are also focused on our neighborhood business districts. Mayor Jerry Brown had a 10K initiative on housing. I think we need a more robust retail strategy that allows for us to really bring good businesses in that feed what the community's needs are.
Santana: You didn't ask me what my best day was.
Drummond: What was your best day?
A: It was (June 19) when we had $2.5 billion approved by the City Council and 5,000 new jobs created (Army Base development), our credit rating was confirmed and we got a $15 million Tiger grant (to help fund a new port rail terminal).
Q: How do you balance family (Santana has a daughter who just turned 10 and a 4½ year old son. They have homes in Fremont and in Jack London Square) with 16 hour work days?
A: I have a great husband who carries a lot of the weight on the household. Because I've been doing this for 20 years, I've learned how to fit life in. I don't feel that I'm deprived. It's very common for our kids to start to drop into the office toward the end of the day. Or our partners or spouses. I love what I do and it makes me a better person at home. ... I'm not checking in and waiting to check out.
Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for the Bay Area. Her column runs Tuesday and Sunday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her at Twitter.