Costa Mesa promotes interim public services director to permanent post

About three months ago, Costa Mesa officials tabbed longtime city employee Raja Sethuraman to helm the Public Services Department while they continued to search for a long-term replacement.

This week, they announced they'd found their candidate: Sethuraman.

"His years of government service and institutional knowledge combined with his commitment to be a team player made it an easy choice," City Manager Tom Hatch said Wednesday. "He works hard to find solutions to complex problems and our City Council and residents are in good hands with him at the helm of public services."

During an interview in City Hall, Sethuraman called the promotion "an incredible opportunity."

"I'm very grateful for getting this position and to serve our residents in this capacity and also to lead this incredible department that does so much in terms of capital projects and service to the community," the 50-year-old Irvine resident said. "I'm proud to be a part of this and to lead this department."

Since coming to the United States from India in 1988, Sethuraman has worked in the transportation field — both in the private sector in Pasadena and Irvine and as a traffic engineer with the Port of Long Beach.

When a job opened up in Costa Mesa's Transportation Services Division in 2000, he leapt at the opportunity. He became that division's manager in 2008.

During his time in transportation services, Sethuraman managed a number of high-profile projects, including improvements to the Fairview Road-405 Freeway interchange, construction of the Susan Street offramp from the 405 and various work along Adams Avenue and Harbor and Newport boulevards.

Sethuraman was named interim head of the Public Services Department in October. He took over from another interim, James Ross, who had filled the position since June.

Ross was chosen for the role following the departure of former Public Services Director Ernesto Munoz, who left the city last June to join a private asset management firm.

The Public Services Department is responsible for transportation, maintenance, engineering and facilities. As Sethuraman noted, it's a wider range of topics than his previous position.

"We have a very motivated staff so I'm really lucky in that way," he said. "Everybody wants to do their best for this community."

Sethuraman says he's excited to roll up his sleeves and tackle some larger capital improvement projects in the city — such as the reconstruction of the fire station on Royal Palm Drive and the planned new central library in Lions Park. He also looks forward to bringing more staff members aboard to help fill out the department's ranks.

"The staff that we have is really behind me and motivated and they're doing an amazing job," he said. "In the next few months, we hope to add more staff and be of a better service to the community."

Twitter: @LukeMMoney