New Mayor Names Team

Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa announced Thursday that he had appointed a transition team of 81 business, artistic, religious and civic leaders to serve as a “recruitment army” to build his administration.

Villaraigosa said the team, which will be led by former Assembly speaker and mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg, would “leave no stone unturned” to find the best candidates and urge them to apply.

The mayor can appoint more than 350 commissioners, about 120 staff members and 30 department heads. Villaraigosa, who takes office July 1, has said he does not immediately plan to replace all of outgoing Mayor James K. Hahn’s appointments.


The transition team, which includes Albert Carnesale, the chancellor of UCLA; Sherry Lansing, past chairman of Paramount Pictures; and Magic Johnson, basketball legend and businessman, probably will meet for the first time next week, Villaraigosa said.

The team members, who are volunteers and represent a broad cross-section of prominent Angelenos, will recommend potential hires to the mayor-elect. A full-time transition office will handle the day-to-day work of setting up the administration.

That office, which opened in City Hall on Monday, is headed by Robin Kramer, who served as chief of staff for former Mayor Richard Riordan. Hertzberg said Thursday that he would work with Kramer “brilliantly.”

In unveiling the team at a city library in Chinatown, Villaraigosa offered few specifics about how it would work. But he repeatedly pledged that the team would find “the best and the brightest” -- a phrase associated with President Kennedy’s top aides that the mayor-elect used half a dozen times in a few minutes.

He said he hoped to have a chief of staff and a senior staff in place when he takes office, but said it was unlikely that he would have finished his appointments.

Political analysts said the size and breadth of the team reflects Villaraigosa’s campaign promise to have “the most diverse administration.”


A large transition team is not unprecedented. Kramer said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom had more than 100 people on his transition team. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had more than 60, including Hertzberg.

Villaraigosa’s list includes labor leaders such as Maria Elena Durazo, the head of Unite Here Local 11 and the widow of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor head Miguel Contreras. There are religious leaders, such as Bishop Charles E. Blake of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ.

Also included are environmentalists, developers, artists, educators, community leaders, neighborhood council members, journalists and dancers. Some, such as Sidney Williams, the husband of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), are related to important backers. Waters’ endorsement during the campaign was considered a huge influence in winning African American votes for Villaraigosa.

Many team members also contributed to Villaraigosa’s campaign.

“He is trying to be embracing, isn’t he? My goodness,” said Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.

Still, Regalado said the number of team members is “pure Antonio” and “speaks to what he was telling people during the last two months: His administration was going to be very inclusive.”

That sentiment was echoed by some team members -- even if they seemed uncertain about the details of their responsibilities.

“Anything that will help Antonio ... that will help shape the new Los Angeles ... I’m excited by that,” said Gordon Davidson, founding artistic director of the Center Theater Group. He added, “I don’t pretend to know anything more than that.”

John Mack, former president of the Los Angeles Urban League and another appointee, said he would be “particularly interested in making sure that African Americans are appointed at all levels and are among the key decision-makers and key players in this new administration.”

Villaraigosa also unveiled a website,, that he said all prospective employees and commissioners -- no matter who they are -- must use to apply for positions in his administration.

“I don’t want to be influenced by friendships, by any previous relationships, by people who have contributed in the past or whatever,” he said. “Everybody has to go through a process.”

Villaraigosa added that even Hertzberg, who joined him at the event to unveil the transition team, would have to apply through the web should he seek a job or commission appointment.

Hertzberg was Villaraigosa’s opponent in the mayoral race until he was eliminated in March. Before that, they were roommates in Sacramento and close confidants when both were in the Assembly. They had a falling out that was the talk of political circles but have lately grown closer.

When asked whether Hertzberg would serve in his administration, both men were coy.

“Let me tell you something, any administration would be very fortunate to get Bob Hertzberg,” Villaraigosa said, adding a few moments later that “there are few people I’ve ever worked with as closely and successfully as I did with Bob.”

For his part, Hertzberg deferred to Villaraigosa: “I rely on Mayor-elect Villaraigosa’s judgment.”