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Council Names New CM: San Diego City Manager to take helm here

The City Manager of San Diego, P. Lamont Ewell, 52, will leave that post to become Santa Monica’s City Manager, succeeding Susan E. McCarthy who will retire on December 8.

Mayor Pam O’Connor announced Ewell’s appointment and introduced Ewell and his family at last night’s Council meeting and welcomed them to the community.

Ewell was the unanimous choice of the Council.

“Mr. Ewell was promoted by the San Diego City Council from Assistant City Manager in 2004 to help the city navigate some very tough issues,” O’Connor said. “The confidence the San Diego Council showed in him, and the experience he’s gained throughout his career, give us every confidence that he is the right person at the right time for Santa Monica.”

Ewell began his career as a firefighter in Compton and rose through the ranks there and in Prince George’s County, Maryland, to become Fire Chief of Oakland, California, in 1991 — just 13 days before the devastating Oakland Hills fire. Distinguishing himself in managing that fire disaster and rebuilding the area, he was later named Assistant City Manager of Oakland.

In 1997, Ewell was named City Manager of Durham, North Carolina, where he restructured government, improving the Police Department and spearheading a downtown renaissance. Recruited by San Diego in 2001, he was named Assistant City Manager and was responsible for day-to-day operation of all city departments.

San Diego has approximately 11,000 employees and a current budget of $2.4 billion (all funds).

Ewell has a degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix and a master’s in general administration from the University of Maryland. He and his wife, Mary, have two grown children.

Last night, Ewell told the Council that “Santa Monica addresses issues head on. It doesn’t matter whether its an extension of transportation modes, whether it’s looking at traffic congestion, trying to protect the integrity and uniqueness of our neighborhoods, attacking affordable housing so everyone has the opportunity to live in the community which they deserve to live in, as well as addressing homelessness. It is because you are willing to address these issues that I am elated with the opportunity to join you to find solutions. I have no illusions. I know I’m following one of the best City Managers in this nation, Susan McCarthy. But I want to recommit to each of you and commit publicly to the community that I’m up for the task. I’m committed to working seven days a week joining together with my co-workers to find ways to translate your policy objectives into day-to-day practices. I will do everything I can to be an attentive listener and meet with the community as they desire and always make sure to fashion ideas and solutions that reflect the sensitivity and needs of this community before we bring them to your attention and ask for your support.”

In an interview with the Mirror, before he drove back to San Diego, Ewell said that, “Homelessness is the #1 issue for me and that’s what attracted me as I read about some of the issues here. It seems to be #1 for the community. That’s the good news. We can coalesce together and seek ways to find a solution.” He went on to say that he wants to make sure “We can have balanced housing and do that and not erode the quality of life of the community.”

When asked why he was leaving his position as City Manager of San Diego, Ewell said it was “going ro a strong mayor form of government on January 1, 2006. I announced last November that I was going to be leaving and they asked me to stay to the end of this year to help navigate some of their problems. Right now, the city of Sand Diego has elected a very good mayor with a clean vision of where he wants to go…It’s time foe it to move forward and for me to move my life forward as well.”

In addition, Ewell said that education was a top priority of mine because my mom was an educator and my grandmother was an educator so I have a passion for it. One of the things I bring with me is the hometown/gown relationship issue…back east. we worked very closely with Duke University to develop a strong working relationship that flourished and I’m hoping to do the same with Santa Monica College, given some of the issues I’ve heard about.”

As Santa Monica City Manager, Ewell will receive a base salary of $245,000, relocation assistance and a loan to purchase a home in the city.

His appointment followed a nationwide recruitment that attracted more than 60 applicants. The Council interviewed six finalists in recent weeks.Assistant City Manager Gordon Anderson will serve as acting City Manager from December 9 until Ewell starts on January 16.

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