|City Leaders Laud Kathryn Vernez Appointment as Deputy City Manager for Special Projects
By Ann K. Williams
October 13, 2011 -- Santa Monica City Hall's most prominent go-to person, Kathryn Vernez, has been promoted to the position of Deputy City Manager for Special Projects.
Never a stranger to complex and seemingly overwhelming organizational jobs – from coordinating city departments with state and county bodies to keep Expo Light Rail development on track, to making sure the public and businesses are kept up to date about the many construction projects in Santa Monica, to keeping the local press well informed – Vernez' promotion was well-earned, said City Manager Rod Gould.
“Kate works tirelessly to maintain and strengthen the city’s relationships with neighborhoods, businesses, community leaders, legislators at the county, state and federal levels, news media, and affiliate cities in the region,” said Gould.
“Her efforts pay off time and again,” he said.
An Assistant Commissioner for Intergovernmental Relations in New York Mayor Ed Koch's administration in the 1980's, Vernez came to the Santa Monica City Manager's office in 1987, where she made a name for herself helping the city deal with high-stakes problems like the resolution of the MtBE water contamination controversy, and cable franchise negotiations and compliance.
Gould singled out her recent work coordinating the many governmental moving parts that have paved the way for the Expo train.
“Kate has helped us to improve our working relations with Expo, Metro, and the design-build firm that will actually perform the work. There are literally hundreds of issues to be resolved, but we are in a better place to resolve them thanks to Kate,” he said.
Gould wasn't the only one with words of praise for Vernez' work in Santa Monica.
“Kate is the Swiss Army Knife of Santa Monica,” Mayor Richard Bloom told The Lookout Wednesday.
Calling her “very smart, very savvy” and “an incredibly nice, together person,” Bloom said that Vernez “has this capacity to take on multiple challenges and deal with whatever comes up and do it quite capably.”
He was joined in his praise of Vernez by the rest of the City Council.
“Kate has taken on complicated issues, with competing demands, and a wide variety of interested parties,” said Councilmember Pam O'Connor. “She is able to identify common ground, encourage collaboration and problem solving with the best interests of the people of Santa Monica in mind.
“Kate has worked for over a decade on the Expo Light Rail project – from helping to develop and pass legislation that created the construction authority, through planning phases, to working today with Expo and Metro on the details of building the line,” said O'Connor, for whom the Expo Line is a special cause.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown said, “Kate has been the get-things-done person in the back corner office as long as I've been on the Council. When there's a state legislative matter, or interaction with our fellow regional governments, or communication with neighborhood groups or residents directly, Kate is always there.
“I'm very happy for her, and this recognition is probably overdue," said McKeown.
“Kate is a terrific top staff person,” said Councilmember Bob Holbrook. “Her promotion is deserved as she consistently produces high quality work.”
“This is a well-deserved recognition of Kate's excellent work for our city,” said Councilmember Terry O'Day. “She has been a real star.”
And Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis said, “Kate is a tremendous asset to our city and very deserving of her promotion. She has been masterful in bringing together local and regional stakeholders on key issues such as transit.”
But perhaps one of the most telling tributes was Councilmember Bobby Shriver's recent naming of an amendment to a recent council vote which gave the city the go-ahead to partner with the City of Los Angeles as they deal with the future of the local airport.
Shriver called it “the Vernez rider,” in honor of Vernez' ability to coordinate large and sometimes conflicting political groups while always looking out for the best interests of the City of Santa Monica.
For her part, Vernez is looking forward to her new promotion.
“I am grateful for this opportunity to continue serving Santa Monica as we enter this unprecedented period of civic improvement,” she said. “It is really through collaboration with our Council, residents, businesses, and State and Federal elected officials and agencies that we can accomplish great things. I look forward to the partnerships that will make real the community’s vision for Santa Monica.”
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