Amy Albano was sworn in this week as Burbank’s first female city attorney, replacing Dennis Barlow, who retired after 14 years.
Albano joined Thousand Oaks in 2005 as city attorney after spending 14 years in the City Attorney’s Office at Ventura. She is also the immediate past president of the League of California Cities City Attorney’s Department.
“I love working for cities because it’s a group with a common interest, a common good, working together,” she said. “We’re able to affect people’s lives. If a city runs well, you have a good quality of life.”
Albano spoke with the Leader before she assumed her duties this week.
The Leader: Mary Riley and Carolyn Barnes were the first female attorneys hired in the City Attorney’s Office — they were hired in 1985 as deputy city attorneys and both still work for the city as senior assistant city attorneys. You are the first female city attorney in the history of the city. How does it feel?
Albano: Of course I like to be a role model, and that’s important, but I also want to be known for the fact that I’m a very good attorney and well respected in my profession.
Q. There are 499 women and 995 men working for the city of Burbank. What are your thoughts on this?
A. I think what’s more important is where women are, what positions they hold. I think it’s wonderful that the department head for Financial Services is a woman. The director of Public Works is a woman, which is traditionally a male’s role. It speaks volumes of the success women have had. I look at our city attorney’s office, and women are more than the majority. It’s great. It’s a sign of the times. More and more women are able to move up in an organization. It doesn’t matter that you’re a woman anymore.
Q. What attracted you to the legal field?
A. I’ve been interested in law ever since I was a little girl. I grew up in an Italian family with big parties and I was told quite often I was going to be a lawyer. I always liked to talk and I grew up with Perry Mason. As I got older, it just stuck.
Q. What are some of the things you think will be important to address in Burbank?
A. The City Council will be setting priorities for me, but obviously there are things that are important to people, such as the issues around the airport, which have been going on for a long time. There is the police litigation, which I am still getting up to speed on. It’s about [finding] solutions to the problems, which is something I’m good at doing. Sometimes it’s just about a brand new set of eyes. Sometimes it’s about being proactive and finding better ways to do things.
In Ventura, I oversaw the outside litigation involving the police department and if there were some areas where a lawsuit brought to light a deficiency, classes or training would be held in that area. It was also about taking a proactive role and preventing future liability.
If there isn’t a good rapport between the city attorney’s office and the police department, I’ll make sure to establish that; that’s important. We have to get to a point of getting beyond what happened, to trust again and move on. I hope the city attorney’s office can help that process.
Q. Would you say the number of women in local government has increased?
A. I have seen changes. Coming from a legal aid background, it’s more diverse, they were probably ahead of their time. There were women and people of color; maybe it has to do with the clients.
I was an officer in the California League of Cities City Attorney’s Department for three years and served as president from 2009 to 2010 and there was a huge mixture. The role of women has changed tremendously.
There was a statistic that showed women did better in public agencies as opposed to private law firms in terms of pay and positions. Government was leading the way in terms of civil rights in that sense.