Sunnyvale to Vote on Hiring Ex-Oakland Administrator

The Sunnyvale City Council Tuesday will vote on whether to hire a controversial ex-Oakland official as its new city manager.

Deanna Santana, 43, who left her post as city administrator in Oakland last month, went through five rounds of interviews and met with dozens of Sunnyvale officials before coming out as the prime candidate.

“We expected top-notch choices and Sunnyvale’s rigorous recruitment process delivered a highly talented pool of candidates,” Mayor Jim Griffith said in a statement released Friday. “Deanna clearly stood out …”

While credited with closing a $58 million budget gap during her first year as Oakland’s chief bureaucrat in 2011 and coming up with ways to recoup some of the $28 million lost with the state-ordered closure of redevelopment agencies, Santana has kicked up some scandal as well.

Her response to the Occupy Oakland demonstrations that same year resulted in pricey settlements over police brutality, but won praise from some city leaders for her decisive action.

“When [Jean] Quan, in her first year as mayor, couldn’t disentangle her passions as a former activist from her duties as a mayor, Santana stepped in to do the heavy lifting,” wrote San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson. “She put an end to the growing encampment and won the praise and respect of her colleagues for her actions.”

Her effort to rein in the City Council—to get them to stop micromanaging city contracts and follow set rules of conduct—made some enemies, however. The East Bay Express, which once named her a courageous leader for calling out the behavior of one council member, called for her resignation two years later. And though progressives supported her hire in the beginning, they pulled support after her aggressive crackdown on Occupy protesters.

In March, Santana was named in a wrongful termination lawsuit that alleged she ordered a personnel director to falsify reports about a former council member.

Despite the controversy, critics and supporters maintain that Santana is a “talented administrator,” Johnson notes in his March 3 column. A Bay Area native, Santana worked as deputy city manager in San Jose before taking the job in Oakland, where she worked with the mayor and the council to stabilize the city and restore essential services after years of deep, damaging budget cuts.

“Deanna has demonstrated incredible talent and enthusiasm for city management and
the highest level of integrity,” said Sunnyvale Council member Dave Whittum. “She is a perfect match for our needs with her roots in Silicon Valley, academic background in urban planning, experience with economic development and commitment to community outreach.”

Santana said she looks forward to her return to the South Bay.

“At the epicenter of Silicon Valley, Sunnyvale has long been the benchmark to measure innovation and best practices in local government,” said Santana. “It has maintained its reputation for being well-managed and fiscally responsible for decades and particularly through the global recession. I feel deeply honored to be considered by the City Council to continue with this tradition as Sunnyvale’s next city manager. I look forward to working with the City Council, employees, residents and stakeholders to maintain these achievements and sound practices.”

If appointed by the Sunnyvale council, Santana will succeed Gary Luebbers, who retired in December, and will receive an annual salary of $264,045. Her scheduled start date would be June 2.

2 Comments

    • Dereck, As a leader of the Oakland business community let me correct you; Ms. Santana did not run Oakland into the ground. To the contrary, she did a wonderful job turning this city’s finances around.

      Gregory McConnell