Oakland City Attorney John Russo takes job as Alameda City Manager
on May 4, 2011
It is official—Oakland City Attorney John Russo will be the new City Manager of Alameda.
In a letter of resignation sent this morning to City Council President Larry Reid, Russo said he will end his 11-year term as Oakland City Attorney on June 13. Russo has served as a public servant for the City of Oakland for the past 16 years, including previously serving as a member of the City Council.
“I have dedicated most of my professional life to serving Oakland through this institution. I am deeply grateful to the people of Oakland and humbled that they entrusted me with this responsibility,” Russo stated in his letter of resignation.
Russo’s acceptance of the position came after Alameda City Council held a vote Tuesday evening, which included Alameda’s City Manager, City Clerk, and City Attorney. When the vote was completed, the city council agreed to hire Russo as their next City Manager under a five-year contract.
“Although I am leaving to take on another challenge and opportunity to serve, the decision to resign was not an easy one,” Russo stated in his resignation letter. “My home is in Oakland, my sons attend public school in Oakland, and I will always care passionately about this city and its future.”
The City of Oakland will now have 60 days to find a replacement to fill Russo’s position. Once his position is filled, that individual will serve out the remainder of Russo’s term until December 2012. If the city council is unable to make an official appointment within that time frame, a special election will take place in the next 120 days to find a successor.
According to Alameda Deputy City Manager Jennifer Ott, Russo’s new role will include managing the city’s budget and overseeing day-to-day operations through all departments. “This includes everything from police to fire operations to development of our former Navy base at Alameda Point,” Ott said. Alameda’s 900-acre Navy base will undergo redevelopment during Russo’s term.
Until Russo joins the City of Alameda on June 13, Ott will be overseeing these operations. “We’re excited to welcome him to the City of Alameda. We think he’ll be a great addition to the city with his commitment to transparency and financial prudence,” Ott said. “We think he’s just what the city needs.”
The City of Alameda received 65 applicants for the position, but narrowed that pool down to six semi-finalists and then again to three finalists. In late March, Oakland North and other publications reported that Russo had been selected as Alameda’s City Manager, although no official word was released by either Russo’s office or Alameda city officials during that time. News that Russo was among the city’s three finalists for the position had leaked earlier that month.
Originally from New York, Russo came to Oakland to work as a pro bono attorney in neighborhood associations. He was initially elected to the Oakland City Council in 1994 representing Chinatown and Grand Lake neighborhoods.
In 2000, Russo became Oakland’s first elected City Attorney, a position he won twice more, most recently in 2008. During his 16-year history as public servant, his accomplishments and roles have included elected President of the League of California Cities; the volunteer President of Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation. While serving on the City Council, Russo wrote Oakland’s Sunshine Ordinance which is designed to make government more transparent to its citizens.
As the City Attorney, in 2002 he started the Neighborhood Law Corps, which is composed of beginning lawyers who serve two years with the city to help it litigate public nuisances including blight, slumlords and drug houses.
Russo’s office has championed the establishment of two gang injunctions that would seek to reduce crime and violence by restricting the actions of alleged gang members named in the injunction. A gang injunction was established in North Oakland in 2010 and a second one has been proposed for the Fruitvale neighborhood. The proposal has been controversial, as was Russo’s announcement earlier this year that he would not provide legal advice on the city’s move to permit large-scale marijuana farms, warning that allowing the farms could violate state and federal law.
Russo’s work has earned him several accolades, awards, and recognition from the National League of Cities and the League of Women Voters in Oakland.
In a press release emailed early this morning, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan expressed good wishes for Russo. “I congratulate John Russo on this exciting new position,” Kaplan stated. “And I congratulate the City of Alameda on making an intelligent pick for its new city manager.”
When asked for the mayor’s take on the City Attorney’s new job, spokeswoman Sue Piper simply said, “Mayor Jean Quan wishes him well.”
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