How Will Our Next Mayor Select a City Administrator?

Make Oakland Better Now!’s Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire was answered by 8 of the ten candidates.  All of the completed questionnaires are available for viewing at our web site, here. Since some Oaklanders may want to compare candidate responses to each of the questions, we will be publishing the responses sorted by question here at Oaktalk over the coming days.  You’ll find these posts for the first test questions directly below this one.

Our previous post was a general one about leadership ability and managerial competence.  The next one is more specific:  How would the candidates select the City Administrator?

Question No. 11          The City Administrator is the day-to-day head of city government. What criteria will you employ and what qualifications will you look for in appointing the City Administrator?


Choosing the next City Administrator is one of the most important tasks the new Mayor will face immediately. The day after the election I will begin a nationwide search for the most talented and accomplished City Administrator for Oakland. I have not promised the position of City Administrator to anyone and I anticipate the nationwide search would identify excellent applicants in an unbiased manner. I will look for an accomplished and experienced administrator who understands my vision for Oakland as a thriving, business-friendly City that delivers services efficiently and is an environmental and cultural leader.

In addition, I will employ an administrator who understands the importance of chain of command, and maintains both accountability and respect.  Hiring and employment decisions must be made on the basis of merit and avoid nepotism or backroom deals, and ensure that employees are fairly evaluated and that the public can have faith in the decisions of governmental hiring.


The three sub questions above [i.e., parts of  Question No. 10] would make good questions for a potential city administrator.  What I will do is search first among people closer to the process, including among my fellow candidates for mayor for talent. I do plan to hire from within. I also plan an administration that includes the people who contested the election. We will need a unity government.


See #10


In this race, I am the only candidate who has actually presented a City Budget. I have developed consensus and moved steadily to reduce the city’s structural, pension, and internal debt for the last 5 years. I have done this by trying to listen to a wide range of citizen and staff opinions and developing measurable outcomes. I have developed a strong record providing a clear calendar of budget hearings and community meetings, the innovative Oakland Budget Challenge which allows citizens to balance their own budgets online, and weekly budget updates in my e-newsletter.

I expect to hire a strong City Administrator with broad experience including a track record in economic development and public works management and if possible Port experience. I hope to recruit someone who has a record of being innovative and able to work with a diverse and progressive community and can work collaborative with the community and employees.

As a Kellogg fellow I was influenced by the Tom Peters management by walking around. Or, getting out and seeing how things are actually operating and listening to employees. I also was influenced by Al Gore’s Reinventing Government, giving units more authority to organize work, measurable results or performance goals, and rewards to better outcomes.

In the budget process I have kept an open door to all groups trying to make information on the budget available to all. The first issue I dealt with as a Council Member was Mayor Brown’s proposal to close about one third of the libraries. I joined a coalition of the neighborhood leaders and heard that they would rather close all libraries one day a week than leave some neighborhoods without libraries. I worked with the staff on an alternative budget proposal that did just that. Over the next 6 months I worked with the coalition to formulate Measure Q which saved all the branches, increased materials, computers and programs.


The profile of the individual I would place in this very important position would be one who has experience with municipal administration, a strong work ethic (to match my own), an ability to communicate and inspire managers and workers, and a shared vision (to match my own) about long term planning, fiscal discipline, and sustainable, long term planning to provide the core functions and responsibilities of government.


I would appoint a multi-tasking CPA, capable of budget development on the same level, at least, of myself. Strategy sessions will be necessary for a cohesive approach to remain in effect. That person will remain in close communication with me and delegated staff at least once a day until we get the city back under control.


Someone with proven track record in personal and professional accomplishments, not just degrees and PHDs.


  • The city administrator is the most important appointment the Mayor can make and I’ve been searching for eight months now and have not made a final decision yet. I have found a city CFO, IT director, Human Resources director, and Enterprise Zone director. and a administrative assistant. I’m currently talking to a candidate about heading up CEDA.
  • All these candidates share three qualities, first they have been highly successful, second they have strong connection with Oakland and third they share my vision for the future of Oakland.

Make Oakland Better Now!

OakTalk Here is the blog of Make Oakland Better Now!, an Oakland community grassroots group of a grass-roots group of voters, volunteers, and policy advocates committed to improving the City of Oakland by focusing on public safety, public works, and responsible budgets. Founded in 2003, we’ve researched, lobbied, and successfully campaigned for a number of new, impactful policies, including the city’s Rainy Day Fund, Measure Z and Operation Ceasefire.

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