Costa Mesa hires executive to replace Naghavi

The city of Costa Mesa has made a preliminary offer to fill the job of economic and development director, the city spokesman confirmed Friday.

Gary Armstrong, director of planning and building inspection services for San Benito County, is slated to replace Peter Naghavi, who retired this month after more than 22 years of service at City Hall.

Armstrong is going through a pre-employment screening before his hiring is made official, city spokesman Bill Lobdell said.

"He's been offered the job and is going through the background process," Lobdell said. "It should wrap up in approximately two weeks."

No official start date has been given.

The news was first reported on Costa Mesa resident Geoff West's blog, A Bubbling Cauldron, which linked to media reports in Northern California.

"We lived in the Newport Beach area for many years," Armstrong told San Benito County Today. "Two of our three boys still live in the Newport-Costa Mesa area in mid-Orange County. We have a lot of family and friends down there."

Armstrong, a UC Santa Barbara graduate, has held the San Benito County job for about three years, according to his LinkedIn profile. He also worked at RBF Consulting, an engineering firm in Los Angeles, for nearly 30 years.

San Benito County, just south of San Jose, is home to nearly 55,000 people, according to 2010 Census data.

Naghavi had intended to retire in December but delayed the move until his replacement could be found.

Naghavi, who didn't know Armstrong beforehand, was part of the interview panel. He said he plans to meet with Armstrong over lunch in the coming weeks.

"What I was looking for was not only technical knowledge of the job, but the presence of a person who can be accepting to all sides," Naghavi said.

He said Armstrong shows the capacity for all the different hats the job requires, among them working with developers, city staff and the public.

"Not only do you have to keep an eye on zoning, you have to be able to come up with ways to incentivize and encourage development in Costa Mesa," Naghavi said.

"I really liked him," he added, "and I'm very happy that he got the job. … I think [city CEO] Tom Hatch selected the right person."

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