P. Lamont Ewell, Santa Monica’s new City Manager, says his top priority is to “help raise the quality of life of everybody.”He began work on January 16, and one of his first tasks was studying the “City’s financial position…[as it’s] most critical that the finances are healthy.” He has also met with City Council member Bobby Shriver and the City’s new homelessness czar Ed Edelman. In an interview with the Mirror, Ewell expressed support for the City’s putting a “plan in place that is linked to regional goals,” and improves the quality of life of both homeless people and city residents. After participating in his first City Council meeting last Tuesday at which several dozen residents criticized the City’s approach to the revision of the City’s General Plan, Ewell said he had “a good appreciation of where the community wants to go” in terms of development in the next 20 years. He added that it was clear that the “larger community is against extremely tall buildings or high density,” and that in its effort to maintain a “robust economy,” the City “can enhance development that’s acceptable.” Ewell said it would take him several months “to understand every operation” and identify the areas where he can be “of added value.” He has spent some time going around the City to talk with employees in various departments and has been impressed with the “wealth of talent,” noting that the City “has been well managed and has good leaders.” Ewell has also met with the Superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, John Deasy, to “further the relationship between the City and the School District.” He also hopes to “strengthen” the City relationship with Santa Monica College and has already spoken with Santa Monica College’s new President Chui L. Tsang.Characterizing Santa Monica as a community that has a “small footprint but deals with large scale issues…[and] is willing to deal with issues head on,” Ewell said it was vital that people “work collaboratively as to what’s in the City’s long-term best interests” and that input should be obtained from “everyone.”Ewell comes to Santa Monica from San Diego. He was named that city’s Assistant City Manager in 2001 and became City Manager in 2004, presiding over 11,000 employees and an annial budget of $2.4 billion.According to Ewell’s resume, some of his responsibilities were “the coordination and oversight to Federal Investigations, development of a Five Year Financial Plan to help stabilize the City’s financial position, completion of outstanding annual audits and the implementation of operational procedures for bond disclosures.”When asked by the Mirror in November why he was leaving San Diego, Ewell said that San Diego was “going to 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 San Diego has elected a very good mayor with a clean vision of where he wants to go…It’s time for it to move forward and for me to move my life forward as well.”As Santa Monica City Manager, Ewell will receive a base salary of $245,000, and a loan to purchase a home in the city.
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