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Council Taps Berkeley Deputy City Manager to Run Santa Monica

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By Jorge Casuso

July 22, 2021 -- After a brief closed door session, the City Council unanimously voted late Tuesday afternoon to hire Berkeley Deputy City Manager David White as Santa Monica's permanent City Manager.

The Council will consider White’s contract, including an October 11 start date and salary, at its meeting Tuesday, City officials said.
David White

In Berkeley, where he was hired in May 2019, White has overseen internal service departments, public safety reform, economic recovery and special projects, Santa Monica officials said.

He "championed reimagining public safety, including a new model of civilian oversight" of the Police Department in the city of 120,000, officials said.

White has "an extensive background in finance," having served as an investment banker and as the City of Fairfield’s finance director, before becoming its City Manager.

“David has a keen understanding of the central issues our like-minded cities face and has demonstrated that he has the experience and spirit of can-do inclusion we need to lead Santa Monica at this critical time,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich.

“We are thrilled to have found a candidate so aligned with our community’s values and impatiently await his arrival so we may begin our collective work.”

As Santa Monica city manager, White will oversee a current budget of $705.5 million and a workforce of 1,923 in the city of some 93,000.

"I am excited and humbled to serve the City of Santa Monica as its City Manager,” White said in a statement issued by the City Thursday evening.

“Santa Monica is a wonderful community and I am eager to engage and work closely with the City Council, staff, residents, and businesses implementing City Council's top priorities -- achieving a clean and safe Santa Monica, addressing homelessness, and ensuring an equitable and inclusive economic recovery."

In Fairfield, a city of some 115,000 that lies between San Francisco and Sacramento, White built back the City's organization after the Great Recession, Santa Monica officials said.

He also "advanced a citywide strategy to address homelessness, oversaw a large capital project portfolio, and prioritized fiscal health and community engagement," officials said.

Before becoming city manager, White spent ten years as assistant city manager, finance director and senior project manager for economic development.

A native of Los Angeles, White grew up in Studio City and graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and anthropology.

He holds a master’s degree in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"White will be relocating to Santa Monica with his wife and daughter and looks forward to 'coming home' to Southern California," City officials said.

Thursday's vote comes one and a half months after the Council voted 6 to 0 to hire Montebello City Manager René Bobadilla, who rejected the offer ("EXTRA -- Bobadilla Rejects Offer to Become Santa Monica City Manager," June 10, 2021).

It took a record eight lengthy closed door sessions searching for a new city manager before Tuesday night's vote.

White will become Santa Monica's first permanent city manager since Rick Cole resigned in April 2020 after coming under increasing pressure for his handling of the coronavirus emergency.

Cole was replaced on an interim basis by then City Attorney Lane Dilg, who left the post one month ago to relocate with her family to Washington D.C.

John Jalili -- who was hired on an interim basis when Bobadilla was selected -- will continue running the City where he served as city manager from 1984 until his retirement in 1999.

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