Changes at the Top : Carson Gives Command to Acting Administrator

Times Staff Writer

In a decision that officials here say will help coalesce their often fragmented city government, the City Council has unanimously agreed to hire interim administrator John R. Dangleis as Carson's chief executive officer.

Officials announced their intention this week to award a one-year contract to Dangleis, 53, who joined Carson 2 1/2 months ago as a retired administrator filling in on a temporary basis. He had never directly applied for the city's top post.

Dangleis will occupy the position left vacant by Raymond L. Meador, who was forced to resign by council members in mid-October.

The decision to hire Dangleis, an Azusa city administrator for 11 1/2 years, followed city interviews with four candidates that were recommended by a private recruiting firm, Korn Ferry International. The consulting firm had conducted a three-month search for a permanent administrator at a cost of more than $10,000.

More Expertise

City officials say that despite the cost and length of the private search, the four candidates recommended by Korn Ferry could not match Dangleis' management expertise.

"John has shown strong leadership in City Hall," said Mayor Kay Calas. "I had seen how effective he was in the job, and I, for one, thought I'd like to see him stay on. I think he has shown an ability to pull everything together. The employees respect him, and there's been less disagreement on the council floor."

Said Councilman Thomas Mills, "Good managers build teams; John is a team builder. John has the personality to win his staff over and interface with the council in a non-biased fashion. He has a personality to stay out of politics."

Recent political turmoil and communication difficulties between city staff and council members made the selection of a new city executive especially important, many officials said.

Disagreement between officials, for example, has surrounded issues ranging from charges of campaign violations filed with the state Fair Political Practices Commission by Councilman Walter J. Egan to a recent council feud over the use of city funds for the distribution of Rose Bowl and Rose Parade tickets to council members.

Budget Issue

In addition, city staff has been at odds with the council on such issues as the city redevelopment budget, which was passed this year a record 3 1/2 months after the Carson deadline.

While city officials say they do not expect miracles from their new administrator ("I don't expect him to walk on water," Calas said), they maintain that his style and experience will bring about a far smoother government operation.

"The city administrator always has a great effect on city controversies and disagreements," Egan said. "A good city administrator tries to head these things off. I think that John has shown he can do this."

Said Mills, "Problems with disagreements come when there is lack of communication. Council members will still disagree, but if communications are improved, then they won't be so disagreeable."

Council members also say they have been impressed with Dangleis' ability to approach questions straightforwardly and keep on top of city issues. "It's evident that he has a lot of experience," said Councilwoman Vera Robles DeWitt. "He is able to get to the heart of an issue and weed out the rest."

Spirit of Cooperation

Dangleis said that his top goal as Carson's new administrator is to continue forging the spirit of cooperation he feels he has already fostered in City Hall--where in-house relations, he said, have often been "disjointed."

"My greatest talent is in understanding people and in getting them to work together toward the same end," he said. "I think that during the last 2 1/2 months I have brought a new enthusiasm that's provided an impetus for the staff to feel they have some leadership and someone is interested in them.

"Most important among my goals is building into a unified team the department directors--to a point where they are so effective that the council will have complete confidence in the team."

Dangleis said that a "team effort" in City Hall will help bring progress on three projects that he has cited as top priorities for the next year.

Those projects are obtaining a hotel for Carson's $4.2-million Civic Center property, constructing a city corporate yard and developing Veteran's Park, the city's newest.

Budgets on Time

He also said that he hopes to simplify the city budget document and expedite the budget approval process. Refering to his experience as Azusa administrator, Dangleis said, "I have never failed to have a budget adopted by June 30."

And, he said, he sees great land development potential in Carson, a city intersected by two major freeways with much vacant property. "The city wants to grow and is willing to do the things necessary to progress," he said.

In accomplishing his objectives, Dangleis said, it is important that he keep out of city politics, though he admits that is hard for many city administrators.

"For any city administrator in any city to stay out of politics and get the job done is a challenge," he said, "but I love to stay out of politics and I plan to. I've always tried to stay out of politics."

Dangleis' departure from his prior administrative post in Azusa, where he worked for 25 years, including 13 as the city's parks and recreation director, stems from a political dispute.

Dangleis, who lives in that city, was fired in 1983 after a newly elected council majority claimed that he was too closely linked to the former council majority and their problems with commercial growth and redevelopment.

Recall Campaign

That council's decision led to a stormy recall campaign eventually involving four of the city's five council members. The two council members who supported Dangleis were later recalled.

Dangleis recalls the incident with distaste, saying the episode was "shabby and unprofessional." He added, however, that he feels that the incident is behind him.

Council members, aware of that incident, also say that it is not relevant to Dangleis' performance in Carson.

"We're aware of his past," Councilwoman DeWitt said, "but his performance in Carson speaks loud and clear for itself."

Dangleis has been promised a still-to-be-negotiated, one-year contract.

He said he foresees no problems similar to those that surrounded the departure of the city's last administrator. The council removed Meador when he was still willing to serve, and the city incurred a bill of $42,928 in salary and severance payments.

No 'Alimony'

"I don't want severance provisions," Dangleis said. "If the council doesn't want me, then I don't want them." In that case, "the marriage would be over, and I don't want any alimony. . . . All I would ask for in return would to be able to leave with dignity."

Dangleis has been paid $5,000 a month as interim administrator. Carson's former administrator's salary was about $64,000 a year.

Officials said they may have awarded Dangleis a longer contract if he had been able to meet the city's requirement that its top administrator live in Carson. Dangleis, the father of five, was unwilling to move, he said, because he does not want his youngest daughter, a high school sophomore, to be forced to change schools.

Egan said he expects a contract with a one-year option, after which Dangleis might then be in a position to relocate in Carson if both parties remain interested in continuing his tenure with the city.

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