It was a welcome turn of events last week whenthe City Council announced that L.A. Deputy Mayor Rick Cole would take over as Santa Monica’s City Manager.

As a member of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration, Cole has been making strides — and headlines — improving L.A. City Hall for the last two years. In L.A., he has worked for transparency, been a vocal supporter of the city’s Great Streets program, and has remained a consistent champion for equity and sustainability in the face of regional economic and environmental challenges.

Santa Monica Forward was heartened by the fact that the decision to hire Rick Cole as our city manager was made, as Mayor Kevin McKeown put it, “unanimously and with great enthusiasm.”

We, at Santa Monica Forward, want to applaud the wisdom demonstrated by our elected leaders in selecting Rick Cole.

This decision is proof that public process in Santa Monica still works. As McKeown noted, Cole was chosen after an “unprecedented amount of public input,” which guided our elected officials as they made their choice. Rick Cole is the city manager Santa Monica deserves.

From the dais Wednesday, Council members praised Cole’s “visionary intellect” and “integrity,” saying that we were “lucky” to have someone of Cole’s caliber interested in working for our city.

There are many of us in the community — and in Santa Monica Forward — who have either worked with Cole or have followed his career since he was elected to the City Council of Pasadena, his hometown, in 1983.

His track record of more than 30 years in public service has shown that he is a leader with the rare quality of being able to build consensus without compromising his commitment to his core values. Not only does he say he cares about social and economic justice, transparency, and well-designed cities, he has, over and over again, acted to bring about outcomes consistent with his stated beliefs.

Cole was instrumental in the revitalization of Old Pasadena, the city’s historic downtown. Despite the fact that Old Pasadena had been left behind, Cole resisted pressure to bulldoze the center, instead spearheading a plan to reinvest in and transform the city’s core into a vibrant urban neighborhood through successful public-private partnerships. Later, as City Manager of Azusa, he brought the depressed town back from the financial brink and oversaw the creation of the town’s General Plan, which stopped suburban sprawl by directing housing growth in the already built environment.

In 1998, the Los Angeles Times dubbed Cole “one of Southern California’s most visionary planning thinkers.”

Rick Cole was honored by Governing Magazine as City Manager of the Year in 2006, while he was working in Ventura.

“You have to roll up your sleeves and make our schools and streets and local governments work, so that people can use their energy and their passion in their family and business life to bring life back to older towns and older cities. It can be done, and there’s no excuse for not doing it,” he told Governing Magazine in 2006.

About a year after he left Ventura, he was brought on board as Garcetti’s Deputy Mayor for Budget and Innovation. In that role, Rick Cole rose to meet a whole host of new challenges. In charge of the city’s $7-billion budget, he has guided investment toward the mayor’s priorities, including bringing L.A. City Hall into the 21st century with its new open data portal, designing better streets for people to walk and bike on, connecting people to transit, and addressing the region’s housing affordability crisis.

Cole understands that Santa Monica comes with its own unique set of challenges and opportunities, most notably the completion of the Expo Light Rail Line in 2016.

“The City of Santa Monica today was shaped by the last three decades of remarkable Council, staff and community leadership. It is both a national model and a personal inspiration to me as a model for sustainable urban policies and practices,” Cole said in a statement released shortly after his appointment Wednesday. “The challenge ahead is to reconcile the success of that model with powerful market forces to ensure that Santa Monica remains a city that works for everyone.”

Welcome to Santa Monica, Rick Cole. Like many others in our community, we look forward to working with you to tackle the issues that face our city. We are truly glad to have someone with your experience and your values at the helm.

Leslie Lambert, Judy Abdo, Craig Hamilton, Cynthia Rose, Juan Matute, Ana G. Jara, Jason Islas and Ernie Powell representSanta Monica Forward.

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