Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed his former legal advisor Wednesday to serve as the next city administrative officer, choosing an aide who has worked for him on and off since 2001.
Rich Llewellyn, 61, has served as an aide to both Garcetti and his father, former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti, at various times over the last 25 years. He had already been working as city administrative officer on an interim basis.
The city administrative officer, or CAO, is considered one of the most powerful appointed positions at City Hall, overseeing labor negotiations and city spending. The City Council will have 45 days to confirm or reject Garcetti's pick.
In an interview, Garcetti praised Llewellyn as "the right person with the right experience" — and someone who is "unafraid to tell you the unvarnished truth."
"We have a friendship, but he doesn't have a political loyalty to any one person," Garcetti said. "He has a political loyalty to the city and its people. And he's shown that in the past."
Last year, Garcetti had promised a national search for the position. In the end, he winnowed the field to two longtime aides: Llewellyn and Matt Szabo, the mayor's deputy chief of staff. On Wednesday, he referred to them as "the two best, full stop."
The mayor announced his choice a few hours after Llewellyn and Szabo participated in closed-door interviews with several City Council members, including Mitch O'Farrell, Nury Martinez and Paul Krekorian.
In the run-up to Wednesday's decision, some at City Hall questioned the thoroughness of the recruitment process.
Councilman David Ryu said he had seen "no evidence that a comprehensive search was done" — and argued that the process should have been as rigorous as those used to find a new police chief.
Jay Handal, co-chairman of the city's Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, voiced disappointment in the decision, saying he had been hoping the mayor would pick "a strong, outside, non-Garcetti protégé." The fact that Garcetti announced his decision so soon after the council members' interviews, Handal said, shows the search process was "cosmetic."
"It's just shows you, he'd already made his choice," Handal said. "It was all just part of a façade."
Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar said this week that the mayor had consulted council members "during every step" of the recruitment process. "That feedback has been instrumental in his decision-making," Comisar said.
Llewellyn will advise the mayor and council on a series of major issues, including homelessness and the effort to repair the city's aging streets and sidewalks. As CAO, he will oversee negotiations with the city's public employee unions, whose salaries and benefits have an enormous impact on the city's ability to provide services.
A resident of Hollywood, Llewellyn was Garcetti's chief of staff from 2001 to 2005, when Garcetti was a council member representing neighborhoods stretching from Echo Park to Atwater Village. He later became an advisor to City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo and then chief of staff to Councilman Paul Koretz, who represents portions of the Westside and San Fernando Valley.
In 2013, after Garcetti won the mayoral election, Llewellyn played a major role in the transition. He was also named in-house counsel for the mayor.