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Long Beach mayor announces pick for Harbor Commission

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster announced his pick to fill one of two vacancies on the city’s Harbor Commission, left open after political upheaval in the city.

Foster has tapped Lori Ann Farrell, a former city controller who currently works for the city of Huntington Beach, to fill a seat on the 5-person panel.

Farrell, a Long Beach resident who currently sits on the city’s transit board, will replace Nick Sramek.

Sramek resigned abruptly last week two days after the City Council ousted fellow Commissioner Thomas Fields in an unprecedented move.

During the meeting, Foster said he had “lost confidence” in Fields, who, as president of the commission, had publicly clashed with the mayor in recent years. A long line of speakers rose to criticize the council for what they called a political move.

In his resignation letter, Sramek told the mayor he had “great concerns about the Port and its politically charged dealings with the City,” adding that the council’s actions could have “dire effects” on the Port.

“That was just the final straw,” Sramek told The Times on Monday. “That should have never been in public.”

Farrell says she hopes to help quell some of the controversy and help the port, the second-busiest in the nation, move on.

“In the short term, I think we need to restore confidence in the city for our elected officials … confidence that we’re moving forward,” Farrell said in an interview.

Farrell said she intends to focus on continuing a “transparent” national search for a new director. She also said she hopes to improve communication between the port’s interests and the city’s.

“Of all the partnerships in the city, [the port] is one of the significant … and there needs to be a spirit of cooperation,” Farrell said.

The growing pains come as the port is overseeing billions of dollars in development projects and a national search for a new executive director. Christopher Lytle, the port’s previous director, left to head up the Port of Oakland earlier this year.

The Long Beach City Council’s personnel committee will consider Farrell’s appointment at its Dec. 3 meeting. Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, who chairs the committee and opposed Fields’ ouster, said in a statement Monday that officials should “put politics aside for the good of the City” and expedite the naming of new commissioners.

The appointment requires a simple majority approval by the council, which could take up the issue as early as Dec. 10.

The mayor’s office did not indicate whether a second appointee to the Harbor Commission would be announced in time for next week’s meeting.


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