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First Human Services Chief Quits Under Fire

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After 11 months of criticism from community activists and city officials over her perceived failure to promote human services, Pasadena’s first assistant city manager for human services has resigned.

“Oh, it’s been real,” Callie Struggs said of her experience in Pasadena.

Struggs’ resignation was announced Monday after she notified City Manager Philip Hawkey that she will leave the $92,000-a-year job Sept. 3.

“As you are aware, many people have said that being assistant city manager for human services is an impossible job,” Struggs said in her Friday letter of resignation. “While I do not agree that it is impossible, it is more difficult than I imagined.”

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Her problems arose, she said, because her job of coordinating all the city’s human services--including recreation, health, summer jobs and housing--was not sufficiently defined by Hawkey. She also said the council and community failed to understand her responsibilities, which included coordinating services provided by the city and by nonprofit agencies.

Struggs’ replacement will be chosen within four months, Hawkey said, after he meets with the city’s human services providers to better define the job she filled.

“I think it will give us a chance to understand better the position and what we can expect,” Hawkey said. Although he attributed Struggs’ departure to her frustration in the job, he said he doesn’t plan to restructure it.

Struggs, 48, is the highest ranking among seven women in the city’s executive management group of 22 department heads and two assistant city managers. She also is the highest-ranking black in the group, which includes seven African-Americans, three Latinos, one American Indian and one Armenian.

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Struggs has been criticized by Councilmen Rick Cole and Isaac Richard, among others, for failing to exhibit leadership and vision. City employees said she was abrasive and abrupt.

Eleanor Torres, a member of the city’s Commission on Children and Youth, criticized Struggs for not meeting often enough with the city’s volunteer commissions.

Councilman Chris Holden, however, has said Struggs was hampered by the job structure set by Hawkey, which gave her no direct authority over any city departments.

“What does she do?” was a common query by her critics.

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Struggs said she was aware of the criticism and had hoped to remedy it by writing the Human Services Strategy and Management Action Plan, which the City Council approved last month. Under the plan, the city pledged to cooperate with community agencies to jointly provide human services in Pasadena.

But even that plan was criticized as vague and without an overseer to ensure its completion.

Despite complaints about her unavailability, Struggs said she had held 87 meetings in 10 months with community agencies and commissions. “I can’t meet any more than that,” she said.

Struggs, a veteran of 17 years in government, was director of health and human services for the city of Newark, N.J., when she was chosen for the Pasadena post after a nationwide search. She said she will try to remain in the Los Angeles area.

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Struggs said she has lined up a six-month management consulting contract with an unspecified government agency that is not connected with Pasadena.

Struggs’ departure will essentially put the city’s human services on hold, Torres said. “In some ways it’s really unfortunate,” she said. “But on the positive side, it’s going to require everyone to work together to find out what the expectations are.”

City Councilwoman Kathryn Nack, who has pushed for improved human services in Pasadena, said Struggs’ departure may give the city an opportunity to devise a team approach to fill her job and the newly created position of human services director.

“We could get an overall visionary and a hands-on person,” Nack said.

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