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Former Santa Monica City Manager Wins Pasadena Council Seat


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By Jorge Casuso

March 15, 2024 -- Former Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole -- who resigned from the post four years ago -- will return to the Pasadena City Council after four decades away.

Cole, who served as Pasadena's mayor from 1992 to 1994, defeated
incumbent Felicia Williams by some 20 points in the Second District Council race on March 5.

"The voters of District 2 have delivered a mandate for positive change at City Hall," Cole said after early returns came in on election night. "I'm honored by their trust and will work tirelessly to uphold it."

Cole, who is the City of Los Angeles’s chief deputy controller and a Pasadena Planning Commissioner, was the target of attack ads during the final weeks of the campaign.

Running for office after serving as an administrator for the Cities of Azusa, Ventura, LA and Santa Monica was "both grueling and rewarding," Cole said.

"What’s grueling is the game of politics that we’ve all come to hate: big money, selfish interests and mudslinging," he wrote in an opinion piece for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

"Even at the local level, personal factions squabble to hang on to their petty power," Cole said. "I’ve chosen to stay positive."

Pasadena shares similar problems with Santa Monica, where Cole served as City Manager from 2015 to 2020 -- empty commercial spaces, persistent crime, deaths and serious injuries from traffic accidents and high housing costs.

In Santa Monica, Cole ofentimes resembled more a Council member than the City's top administrator, injecting himself into Council debates ("Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole Is 'Distinctly Different,'" March 13, 2017).

He also elevated his profile -- prominently displaying his picture on the City's website, posting far-ranging blogs and engaging with critics online.

His resignation came amid increasing pressure for his handling of the coronavirus emergency he had declared the previous month ("Cole Resigns as Santa Monica City Manager," April 17, 2020).

He resigned shortly after an online petition was circulated urging the Council to fire him for "abusing power while the City is in a state of emergency."

Shortly after his departure, Cole's warning that hundreds of municipal employees would have to be laid off and programs and services drastically cut after Santa Monica's economy was shut down would come to pass.

In an interview last year with the Pasadena Star News, Cole promised to shake up local politics if voters returned him to the Council.

“In a changing world, cities can’t stand still,” he said. “Pasadena used to be a leader, setting the example for other cities to follow. Yet today, city government has settled for the status quo."

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