OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Oakland’s assistant city administrator has been named to replace City Administrator Deanna Santana effective noon on Tuesday in a sudden announcement by Mayor Jean Quan Tuesday afternoon.
Fred Blackwell will replace Santana, who is departing the position for reasons undisclosed in the mayor’s announcement.
“I knew when I hired Deanna that if she was successful in Oakland, larger cities would begin recruiting her,” Quan said in a statement. “It’s clear that’s happening now: major cities across the country want to try what Oakland has been doing.”
In recent months, Santana has been a linked to city manager positions in Dallas and Phoenix, however both jobs have been filled with candidates from within their respective city governments and Santana has not announced that she is leaving for any particular position.
Santana first came to Oakland in August 2011 after serving as assistant city manager in San Jose.
Early in her tenure she contented with Occupy protests at the foot of city hall and ongoing conflicts with the protesters that took a toll on the city government.
Two police chiefs have also resigned since Santana started her role—Anthony Batts in October 2011 and the abrupt resignation of Howard Jordan last year—and Oakland remains without a permanent police chief.
City unions have also taken aim at Santana in negotiations, claiming that Santana could make room in the budget for wage and benefit increases for city workers but has refused to.
Quan credited Santana with helping to improve the city’s economy despite the consistent challenges of working in Oakland.
“Together we made great strides stabilizing and strengthening the city’s finances through the recession and the loss of the state’s redevelopment program, as well as reorganizing and rebuilding our police department,” Quan said.
Blackwell has served as Oakland’s assistant city administrator since September 2011 after previously heading up San Francisco’s redevelopment agency.
He is an Oakland native and has extensive experience in nonprofit and public sector work, including in the San Francisco mayor’s office and for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Making Connections Initiative in Oakland, according to Quan’s office.
“I am honored and eager to get to work,” Blackwell said. “I’ve seen what this great city can be and I’m excited about this point in my hometown’s history.”
Quan credited Blackwell with an instrumental role in the progress of some of the city’s recent development efforts, including the redevelopment underway at the former Oakland Army Base and a proposed new stadium site for the Raiders and A’s, Coliseum City.
While Blackwell’s appointment is still pending approval by the Oakland City Council, he has earned the support of the council’s president.
“Fred has done outstanding work already in his two years with the city,” council President Patricia Kernighan said. “He’s been a dynamic and engaging partner to the City Council as we work to make Oakland safer and create jobs and opportunities for our residents and businesses.”
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