Huntington Beach city manager tapped to serve in Irvine after just 2 years on the job

City Manager Oliver Chi speaks.
City Manager Oliver Chi speaks during Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City presentation in the courtyard at City Hall. The city of Irvine announced Chi’s appointment Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Huntington Beach’s city manager may soon be Irvine’s after the latter announced its intention to appoint Oliver Chi to replace former city manager John Russo, who left in September last year.

The Irvine City Council is expected to approve Chi’s hiring during its Nov. 9 meeting.

Huntington Beach officials said they would be holding a closed session meeting to determine the next steps on naming an interim and launching a nationwide search for the next city manager.

Chi took on the role of city manager of Huntington Beach in September 2019 after previously serving in the same capacity for the city of Monrovia for five years.

Chi succeeded former city manager Fred Wilson, who left Huntington Beach City Hall in May that same year to take on a position at Ralph Andersen & Associates, an executive search firm for public sector agencies.

Chi’s four-year contract, approved in 2019, had an annual starting salary of $260,000. That contract was set to expire in 2023. Irvine officials said Chi agreed to a two-year term at $301,246 annually.

“Oliver has done tremendous work for the city of Huntington Beach,” said Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr in a statement. “Thanks to Oliver’s leadership, we find our city with a budget surplus and stronger than we were in the past.

“Oliver’s leadership has been critical in overcoming COVID, civil unrest, and most recently, the oil spill. While I will greatly miss Oliver in Huntington Beach, I have no doubt he will do fantastic things for the city of Irvine,” said Carr.

In the course of his public service career, Chi has also served as Barstow’s assistant city manager and held staff positions in a number of other California cities including Rosemead, Claremont and Arcadia.

Chi could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday on the reasons for his departure to the city of Irvine.

“While I am deeply honored that the city of Irvine is considering my appointment, I can’t begin to describe what a genuine privilege it has been for me to serve Huntington Beach these past two years,” Chi said in a statement. “I have been so blessed to have had the chance to work with Mayor Carr and an outstanding team of thoughtful city council members. The amazing array of spectacularly talented city staff here in Huntington Beach are truly second to none.

“Our shared OneHB mission has been act as one team, working together to serve the people of Huntington Beach exceptionally to inspire pride in our community,” added Chi.

“In reflecting back on the past few years, I do feel such immense pride at what we have been able to do together,” he said.

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