Aide to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti hired for top post in Santa Monica

High-level aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti is tapped for job as Santa Monica's city manager

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s top aide on budget issues is leaving to take a job running the city of Santa Monica.

Deputy Mayor Rick Cole, who also handled innovation and technology strategies for Garcetti, will become city manager of the beach community next month. He was selected by Santa Monica’s council unanimously, Mayor Kevin McKeown said.

The appointment makes Cole the third deputy mayor to announce a departure from Garcetti's office in recent months. Doane Liu, who handled basic services, took a job at the Port of Los Angeles. Eileen Decker, who handles public safety, was nominated to become the top federal prosecutor for the Los Angeles area.

That leaves Kelli Bernard, who handles economic development, as the only remaining deputy mayor who started with Garcetti in 2013, the year he took office. Garcetti spokesman Yusef Robb also left recently to become a communications consultant.

Cole, 61, said he had expected to stay with Garcetti until the end of his administration but found that the city manager position was too good to pass up. That’s due in part, he said, to the coming arrival of the Expo light-rail line, which will have its terminus near the Third Street Promenade.

Santa Monica is “a progressive city. It’s a well-run city. It has the resources to do some incredible things,” he said. “And with the coming of the Expo line, it’s got some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.”

In a statement, Garcetti praised Cole for helping him balance the budget and bring new technology to various city agencies.

“Santa Monica will benefit from his talent, experience and commitment to public service,” the mayor said.

Cole has experience in a handful of municipalities across Southern California. He was elected to the Pasadena City Council, serving a stint as mayor. He went on to become city manager for the San Gabriel Valley city of Azusa and, more recently, Ventura. When Garcetti hired him, Cole had been working as the acting director of the Local Government Commission, a Sacramento-based nonprofit.

Cole, who lives in Los Feliz, handled budget issues for Garcetti at a time when the mayor put a focus on basic services. The mayor’s most recent budget plan easily won approval last week and emphasized trash pickup, sidewalk repairs and tree trimming.

While at L.A. City Hall, Cole maintained a lively presence on social media, offering opinions that may not always have been shared by his boss. At one point last summer, he went on Twitter and hurled an insult at then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Months later, he tweeted his opinion of former Mayor Richard Riordan’s autobiography, saying it lacked humility and humor. “Blame the ghostwriter?” he wrote.

On Wednesday, the day his hiring was announced, Cole sounded off on a Times story about labor leaders seeking an exemption from the minimum-wage ordinance for some unionized workplaces. His assessment was blunt: “WTF?” he wrote. The tweet later was deleted.

Cole will take the Santa Monica post at a time of some tension over real estate development among residents and advocacy groups. Last year, amid a community outcry, the council rescinded approval of Bergamot Transit Village, an office, retail and residential project planned near an Expo station.

“Santa Monica has some real challenges around growth and development,” Cole said. “And I think part of the challenge is that it’s been focused on the quantity of growth and not on the quality of growth.”

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

8:00 p.m.: This post has been updated with comments from Cole.

This post was originally published at 7:25 p.m.

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