Los Angeles County top executive William Fujioka announces retirement
Los Angeles County’s top manager, William T Fujioka, announced plans to retire Thursday, signaling another wave in the sea change in county leadership.
Fujioka, 61, said in a letter to his staff that he would step down in November to “provide sufficient time for a smooth transition.” His departure will coincide with a major transition on the board, as two new supervisors and a new sheriff take office.
The current board will have to decide whether to select a replacement before longtime supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Gloria Molina exit the board, or whether to leave the key decision to the new supervisors.
Former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis won the seat being vacated by Molina outright in this month’s primary election. Former state lawmaker Sheila Kuehl and Kennedy family scion Bobby Shriver are in a runoff for the seat Yaroslavsky is vacating. Both supervisors were forced out by term limits.
The Board of Supervisors hired Fujioka in 2007 to take over as chief executive officer of the nation’s largest local government as part of a management reorganization that gave new powers to the chief executive.
They scaled back Fujioka’s powers in 2011, taking the county probation department and Department of Children and Family Services out from under his direct oversight.
Fujioka worked for the county for many years in various positions, including as a hospital administrator. He also served for eight years as the top administrator for the city of Los Angeles and retired briefly from that post before coming out of retirement to take the county position, where he earns a salary of $355,584 and oversees a $26-billion budget.
Fujioka said in an interview that he had agreed to stay five years when he was hired, but he remained longer to help guide the county through the Great Recession.
“It’s a good time to go,” he said. “It would not have been a good time to go several years ago…. When the day’s over, my biggest accomplishment is ensuring during the recession that we didn’t lay anybody off, we didn’t furlough anybody, and we continued to provide critical services.”
He declined to say who he would recommend to replace him, but said he thought the new top manager would need to have experience in a “very large county” because of the scope and diversity of services Los Angeles County provides.
The board had a difficult time filling the top post when Fujioka’s predecessor, David Janssen, retired. After a months-long search, they offered the job to then-Orange County chief executive Tom Mauk, who agreed to take the post but changed his mind one day later.
Although the county’s finances have stabilized, the new top manager -- and new board -- will face serious challenges including the continuing implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a planned $2-billion reconstruction of the downtown Men’s Central Jail, and sweeping reforms in the county’s child welfare system.
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