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Costa Mesa selects Huntington Beach’s second-in-command to take over as city manager; official vote set for Tuesday

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Costa Mesa City Council members will vote next week on hiring Lori Ann Farrell Harrison as the new city manager. She is currently assistant city manager in Huntington Beach.
(Courtesy of city of Huntington Beach)

Surf City’s second-in-command is set to take the helm in the City of the Arts.

Costa Mesa City Council members are scheduled to vote Tuesday on hiring Lori Ann Farrell Harrison, currently the assistant city manager in Huntington Beach, for the city’s top job.

She was tapped to become Costa Mesa’s next city manager after a four-month search. Her starting salary is $260,000 per year, with $141,185 in annual benefits.

“It is an extraordinary honor and privilege to be offered the position of city manager for the city of Costa Mesa, known for its cutting-edge initiatives, commitment to public safety, emphasis on transparency in government and dedication to the arts,” Farrell Harrison said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “I am truly excited about the opportunity to put my 28 years of experience to work in leading such an excellent organization under the direction of Mayor [Katrina] Foley and the City Council.”

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Foley said in a statement that “Ms. Farrell Harrison’s background in government as well as the private sector is extensive and diverse. Her resumé impresses, as well as her thoughtful, inclusive and collaborative approach to governance.”

Should the council officially approve her contract Tuesday, Farrell Harrison will become the eighth city manager since Costa Mesa incorporated in 1953. She anticipates starting her new job by July 1, according to the city.

Farrell Harrison has been Huntington Beach’s assistant city manager since September 2017, when she was selected to replace Ken Domer, who left to become Fullerton’s city manager.

Before taking her current job, Farrell Harrison was Huntington Beach’s chief financial officer for seven years. Before that, she worked as controller and chief financial officer for the city of Long Beach.

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She holds a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College of Columbia University and a master’s in public administration, also from Columbia. She is fluent in Spanish and she and her husband have four teenage children.

Costa Mesa’s previous city manager, Tom Hatch, left in November when the council voted 3-2 — with Foley and Mayor Pro Tem John Stephens opposed — to terminate his contract.

Foley and Stephens said at the time that Hatch had effectively left the position earlier, as he had already moved out of his office. As a result of the council’s vote, Hatch was entitled to $206,362 in severance.

Assistant City Manager Tamara Letourneau has served as Costa Mesa’s top municipal employee since his departure.

In January, Hatch became Orange County’s chief human-resources officer.

Farrell Harrison isn’t the only high-ranking employee set to leave Huntington Beach in the near future. Current City Manager Fred Wilson’s last day on the job is May 10.

Wilson has said he is taking a job with Ralph Andersen & Associates, an executive search firm for public sector agencies that Costa Mesa retained for its city manager hunt.

“Lori Ann has proven to be a true asset and important resource to the city of Huntington Beach,” Wilson said in a statement. “She joined the city in a challenging time, and over the past nine years has demonstrated excellent leadership and management skills. I congratulate her on this great opportunity and know she will do an outstanding job in her new role as the city manager of Costa Mesa.”

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After Wilson departs, Farrell Harrison will serve temporarily as Huntington Beach’s interim city manager.

“Costa Mesa has been a great neighbor to the city of Huntington Beach, so I look forward to building an even stronger relationship between our two cities to better address the challenges Orange County cities face,” she said in a statement.

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UPDATES:

This article was originally published at 5 p.m. and was later updated with additional information and comments.


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