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Source: Russo is council’s pick for Alameda manager job

Submitted by on 1, March 29, 2011 – 7:55 am14 Comments

Oakland City Attorney John Russo is the City Council’s pick to become Alameda’s new city manager, a source familiar with the process told The Island.

Russo, 52, told The Island on Sunday that he couldn’t talk about the council’s choice for a new city manager, saying the city hadn’t completed its hiring process yet. But The Island’s source said that the other two top candidates for the job, former assistant city manager David Brandt and Millbrae City Manager Marcia Raines, had been informed that they weren’t picked for the job.

Brandt confirmed on Monday that he had been told over the weekend that he wasn’t selected to take the job. Raines didn’t return a call seeking confirmation that she would remain in Millbrae.

“The candidate won’t be me,” said Brandt, who has managed the city of Redmond, Ore. since 2009.

The City Council is set to hold a closed-door session about its future city manager tonight, though it’s unclear whether a new hire will be announced.

The candidates were interviewed by council members in February and again on Friday by panels of community stakeholders, labor and department heads, who gave their input to the council during a special, closed-door session on Saturday. The council announced Saturday afternoon that they had discussed selection of a city manager and given direction to staff, but no further details were provided about the five-plus-hour meeting.

Mayor Marie Gilmore didn’t respond to a reporter’s request Monday for a vote tally from Saturday’s meeting or time frame for announcing a new manager.

Russo has been Oakland’s city attorney since 2000, when he became the city’s first-ever candidate elected to the formerly appointive post. Prior to that, the Brooklyn-born, Yale- and New York University-educated lawyer had served for six years on Oakland’s City Council. In 2006, he ran unsuccessfully against Sandré Swanson for the 16th district state Assembly seat Swanson still holds.

Russo has been honored for promoting government transparency and founding a neighborhood law corps during his decade as Oakland’s top attorney, but he has tangled recently with new Mayor Jean Quan and Oakland’s City Council over a recent gang injunction and a pot farm ordinance the council passed in 2010 but later suspended.

He donated money to the recent council and mayoral campaigns of Councilman Rob Bonta, Mayor Marie Gilmore and Councilwoman Lena Tam, who he also publicly supported after city official announced she was the subject of a leaks investigation.

Whoever becomes Alameda’s next city manager will confront major decisions over the future of Alameda Point, and the hiring of several department managers, on top of broader problems including pension reform and the ongoing effects of a sagging economy.

If Russo resigns as Oakland’s city attorney, the city council there has the power to appoint someone new to fill out the rest of his term. They can also hold a special election to fill the seat.

Ann Marie Gallant, Alameda’s interim city manager since April 2009, was placed on administrative leave on December 28; her contract expires Thursday. Gallant has since made a claim seeking money from the city, a move widely considered to be a prelude to a possible lawsuit.


  • Betty says:

    Wow, why am I not surprised.
    So is SunCal in the wings?

  • Jon Spangler says:

    My first choice – not that anyone on the City Council asked me – would have been former Assistant CM David Brandt. He is smart, capable,knows Alameda well, and offers an emotionally neutral “keel” that I think Alameda needs in order to be reconciled and find new directions in this still-contentious community. But the tea leaves say he was not chosen…

    My only reason for not supporting John Russo is that he seems to have electoral politics in his genes and can be somewhat controversial. He is smart, capable, and an outspoken proponent of government accountability and transparency, however, and he knows Alameda’s issues well. We could have done far worse – and have done so – as recent history amply demonstrates…

  • hobnob says:

    Ok, all this talk about the 3 block on the council (Rob Bonta, Mayor Marie Gilmore and Councilwoman Lena Tam), I thought it was just talk.

    However, based on all the decisions they have done and for hiring the new city manager, I don’t think it’s much talk anymore… I would think that David Brandt who was assistant CM and now CM of Oregon would have been top pick. Not a city attorney like Russo.

    I think Russo might have been a right pick to replace HighSmith.
    whatever… like I know anything…

  • Adam Gillitt says:

    What a total non-surprise. Hurray for politics and deception.

    After concluding and announcing that the City needed someone experienced with California City management, who was chosen? The only person with none.

    What does he have that Marie, Lena and Rob want for Alameda so badly?

  • ns says:

    It doesn’t seem right that he donated to two councilmember’s and the mayor’s campaign and they turn around and put him the city manager’s position. I know nothing about him, but this just reeks of foul play.

  • John Piziali says:

    to answer your question, a good city manager.

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