Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

New City Manager Rick Cole has officially taken his seat at City Hall. The Daily Press spoke with Cole about his priorities, goals and plans.

Daily Press:What projects, topics, or ideas do you hope to embark on that are not already under way in the City?

Rick Cole:In addition to pursuing the City’s ambitious policy goals and capital construction projects already under way, as the new City Manager I want to establish a few key strategic initiatives. Some may be new, some may simply be elevated in priority. I think the best way to do that, however, is not to start the job with preconceptions, but to spend the first weeks observing and listening – both out in the community and inside the city organization. Then I’m committed to sit down with the City Council, probably in a retreat format — which will, of course, be a public session. I want to work collaboratively with the Council to establish the City’s most important priorities. Some I will take personal leadership on, others will naturally fall to others in the organization to champion.

DP:What will be the largest immediate challenge?

RC:I think it is pent-up energy to address a number of issues. Naturally after a long-term city manager retires and there is an interim period prior to a successor coming on board, the Council, the community and the staff are anxious to move forward on various concerns that they may feel need urgent attention. But again, I think it is important to be strategic. We have plenty of work already underway, including big construction projects like the California Incline and the Colorado Esplanade — as well as policy challenges such as the opening of the Expo Line, implementation of a bike share franchise, consideration of a local minimum wage and strategies for implementing the will of the voters on the airport. I will also need to recruit and select two new department heads to lead Fire and Information Technology. Fortunately the adoption of both the budget and the zoning code were accomplished under the able leadership of the Interim City Manager Elaine Polachek.

DP:Do you have an agenda for your first 100 days?

RC:That model is more applicable to a new elected leader than to an incoming chief executive officer. My job is not to launch my own programs, my job is to implement the clearly established policies of the City Council. I don’t anticipate major changes in the months ahead. What I do expect is to intentionally identify the most important strategic priorities of City government – and to begin to mobilize the resources of time, funding and public consensus to get them accomplished.

DP:Are there any Santa Monica specific activities that you want to experience now that you work here?

RC:Yes, I’m looking forward to being part of the rich cultural and community life of Santa Monica. I am holding off on an immediate move because my twin girls are in their last year of high school in our neighborhood in Los Angeles. But my family and I are close enough to partake in the kaleidoscope of events and activities that take place here year-round. Santa Monica already was one of our favorite places to visit. Now we’ll be regulars. I will also be exploring the neighborhoods and housing options, looking for a place to settle. I’ve already introduced myself to Msgr. Torgerson at Saint Monica’s Church. I’m looking forward to being an active member of that vibrant parish.

DP:What are you most excited to begin work on?

RC:Three things. First, engaging with the community. I relish healthy civic discourse where citizens both express their opinions and actively partner with city government to improve our city. Frankly, the tenor of debate on development issues has sometimes taken on a polarizing tenor and I hope we can look for common ground. Second, technology. Santa Monica is fortunate to be an epicenter of tech innovation and I want to continue the pace-setting leadership of the City in using technology to deliver better, faster and more economical results as well as increase transparency and accountability to our citizen customers. Third, the public realm. Santa Monica has been one of the leaders of creative place-making in Southern California since it remade the Third Street Promenade three decades ago. Expanding memorable and attractive public spaces is a great opportunity for Santa Monica and I see that as a way to improve both the quality of life and the standard of living of residents. Beautiful and welcoming streetscapes, parks and public areas will also enhance the prosperity of the city as a whole.

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