O.C.’s ‘homeless czar’ to become Costa Mesa’s assistant city manager

Susan Price, Orange County's director of care coordination, has been hired as Costa Mesa's next assistant city manager.
Susan Price, Orange County’s director of care coordination, has been hired as Costa Mesa’s next assistant city manager.
(File Photo)

Susan Price, Orange County’s “homeless czar,” has been hired as Costa Mesa’s new assistant city manager, officials announced Thursday.

Price — whose official title with the county is director of care coordination — has been in her role since May 2016. She is expected to join Costa Mesa on Jan. 6.

“Costa Mesa appealed to me because it’s an innovative and dynamic city,” she said in a statement. “It was the perfect set of circumstances for me. With my expertise in mobilizing and coordinating a multitude of stakeholders to improve the quality of life for Orange County residents, I can see myself contributing to Costa Mesa in a significant way.”

During her time with the county, Price “designed, developed and implemented 600 emergency shelter beds to help address the encampment crisis, influenced a culture change in the county to effectively address homelessness and created unique strategies,” according to a Costa Mesa news release.

Costa Mesa opened its own 50-bed homeless shelter at Lighthouse Church of the Nazarene in April and is developing a long-term site for that facility at 3175 Airway Ave., near John Wayne Airport.

Price earned both her bachelor’s degree in applied psychology and master’s degree in social work from Cal State Long Beach. She was one of 67 candidates who applied for the assistant city manager position, according to the city.

Her salary will be $213,048 annually, the city said.

“Susan is a highly respected leader and trailblazer in addressing homelessness in Orange County,” City Manager Lori Ann Farrell Harrison said in a statement. “Her outstanding credentials and past leadership roles make her a great fit for Costa Mesa. I look forward to her joining our exceptional leadership team and working with her to solve some of the city’s biggest challenges.”

Mayor Katrina Foley said Price’s “diverse experience in finding successful cost-efficient solutions to end homelessness will help us transition seamlessly to oversee our shelter and homeless outreach programs.”

“She also brings needed expertise in developing plans for veterans housing and identifying partners and funding sources to build a quality workforce and affordable housing for families,” Foley said in a statement. “Her leadership skills and background in these areas are critical at this time. I’m excited to welcome her to our Costa Mesa team.”

Price’s hire may bring stability to a position that’s recently been in flux following a game of municipal musical chairs that took place after the departure of former city manager Tom Hatch last November.

After Hatch left, then-Assistant City Manager Tamara Letourneau was elevated to acting city manager and served in that role until Farrell Harrison came onboard in July. Letourneau left Costa Mesa in August to become city manager of Laguna Niguel.

Justin Martin was then named acting assistant city manager, but he has since left to reunite with Letourneau in Laguna Niguel, where he is now deputy city manager.

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