Harry Mavrogenes made the surprising announcement Thursday that he will relinquish his role as Executive Director of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency as of June 24. Mavrogenes has held the title since late 2004.
Mavrogenes decision to resign comes at a time of great uncertainty for the agency, which is under the threat of being eliminated if Gov. Jerry Brown is able to succeed in instituting his proposed budget cuts. San Jose’s RDA has already been trimmed substantially, going from more than 100 employees as of last year to just 25 currently. Mavrogenes also announced Thursday to the California Redevelopment Agency board that San Jose’s agency will be going to just eight employees in the future.
“The way it’s going to survive is by being very focused, very small,” Mavrogenes said in a telephone interview Friday. “We have a $19 million capital improvement budget for next year. From my standpoint, I told the mayor, I want to build things.”
There is plenty of debate on whether or not RDAs are a proper use of taxpayer money. Going forward, Mavrogenes said, San Jose’s agency will now be little more than a management organization that pays off its debts and completes agreements while doing its best to help create jobs.
“It’s unfortunate because there so much that needs to be done in this community,” Mavrogenes said. “It’s going to take 3-4 years at least for the agency to come back.”
Driving back from Sacramento on Friday, Mavrogenes said he’s unsure how the final state budget will play out.
“I was just in meetings today where I know there is strong support from Republicans to keep redevelopment, which is ironic,” he said. “I’m a lifelong Democrat and Republicans are some of our best friends right now.”
The toll of arguing with Gov. Brown and other RDA opponents seems to have taken a toll on Mavrogenes, who is unsure where he will work in the future.
“I’m up for a good fight,” he said, “but they don’t play fair up there.”
Below is the letter Mavrogenes sent out on Thursday following his announcement at an agency budget hearing:
Mayor and Members of the Redevelopment Agency Board:
It was almost 40 years ago, on August 17, 1971 that I began my professional career with the City of San Jose, as a young planner. I have served San Jose at the very best of my ability, and have enjoyed a very exciting and fruitful career, both during my initial stint through 1990, and since my return in 1998. It has been a privilege to work with smart and passionate professionals at the Redevelopment Agency over the years, and to have been able to follow in the footsteps of the great and visionary Frank Taylor, who led this Agency for two decades. I will always be grateful for the support and leadership of Mayors Mineta, Hayes, Hammer, McEnery, Gonzales and Reed and the Board Members that have guided the Agency’s investments.
Together with our private sector and city partners, we transformed the skyline and gave San Jose a distinctive place among great American cities. Redevelopment is the most significant program that the State of California has created, and we have used it well. I have also had to be a vigilant advocate to save Redevelopment from countless raids and near certain annihilation by the State. The state raids and the recent economy have taken their toll on this Agency.
I commend Mayor Reed for his direction to keep the Agency operative and very finely focused so that it will survive the challenging years ahead, and I would urge the Board to adopt his recommendations.
The Mayor and I have worked closely to develop a small and effective organization for the future of the agency. I do not believe that my skills are needed in that small a group and I have chosen to move on. My last day will be June 24th, 2011.
I will continue to keep an active role with the California Redevelopment Association to advocate for redevelopment reform and survival, and I will look for other professional challenges in the future. As a resident of San Jose, I will continue to stay engaged and look out for the best interests of this city. I could not have asked for a better or more dedicated group of bosses. I know that you all care deeply for this city and will continue to fight for the best for our citizens.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you and the Citizens of San Jose,
Harry S. Mavrogenes
The Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Jose