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Carol Swindell, Santa Monica’s new Finance Director, started on the job Friday, January 12, and, while she is understandably in the process of “getting up to speed” as she puts it, she identified the upcoming budget approvals as the topic in which she will most “immediately get fully immersed.” She singled out the budget’s “potential impact on the utility user tax” as an item she is looking into.

Swindell replaces Chief Financial Officer Steve Stark who departed last September after accepting the position of finance director for the City of Pasadena.

Carol O. Swindell comes to Santa Monica after serving the last two years as director of administrative services for the City of Walnut Creek in Northern California and the three years before that as director of financial services and chief financial officer for the City of Oceanside. Her appointment was announced by City Manager P. Lamont Ewell last month following a nationwide recruitment by the executive search firm Teri Black & Co.

“Santa Monica is lucky to find someone with the range of financial skills and public sector experience that Carol offers, and these attributes will greatly enhance our City’s fiscal position,” Ewell said. “Further, her management style is oriented to collaboration and customer service.”

In Walnut Creek (pop. 66,000), Swindell oversaw a $97 million budget and supervised 30 employees; in Oceanside (pop.173,000), she managed a $250 million budget and supervised 60 employees. Santa Monica has a population of 88,000 and an annual budget of approximately $410 million.

“Santa Monica is a beautiful, vibrant and progressive community, and its City government is recognized as one of the best in the country,” said Swindell. “I’m thrilled and honored to have been selected to become a member of the City team.”

Reached at her office on her first day on the job, Carol Swindell told the Mirror that she and her husband have not even started a search for permanent housing to accommodate her Santa Monica job – “we’re still trying to get temporary housing.” Her husband is now selling their house in Northern California and will be a “huge help” in completing the relocation here inasmuch as he spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy, she said.

Swindell’s resume shows that she holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business from The College of William and Mary, and is certified as a public accountant, internal auditor and public finance officer. She worked as an auditor for the accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand in Newport News, Virginia from 1986 to 1987, and then in financial capacities for local governments in Virginia before going to Oceanside. She has a grown daughter living in Southern California.

In announcing Swindell’s appointment last month, City Manager Ewell said, “She is highly effective in training and motivating staff, and will ensure that the City organization is appropriately focused on sound financial practices, budget development and fiscal oversight so that the community is properly served. I’m eager to have Carol join our team.”

Since Ewell came to Santa Monica in January 2006 from San Diego (because that city was “going to a strong mayor form of government”), he has shown a tendency to go outside Santa Monica City staff in filling department head vacancies, hiring not only Swindell from Walnut Creek but also Planning Director Eileen P. Fogarty from Alexandra, Virginia and Police Chief Tim Jackman from Long Beach, California.

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