Inglewood city administrator takes the lead


imageIn a city that is for the moment without an official mayor, Tim Wanamaker, Inglewood’s city administrator, is keeping the daily workings of municipal government on track.

Since the departure of Mayor Roosevelt Dorn in Janaury, Wanamaker has served as the face and figurehead of Inglewood. His image figures prominently on the city’s newly redesigned website and he puts in long hours each day working with the community, staff and the city council.

“The real thing about this city is [that] its people really love it,” he said. “If you get here and begin to be part of this city, you realize it really has a lot to offer.”

Wanamaker manages a multi-million dollar budget, coordinates operations for the city’s twelve departments and oversees the implementation of city ordinances and policies – all in a day’s work.

“My job is to ensure that it’s all being run holistically in a matter that is as efficient as possible, but as effective as possible,” he said in a recent interview.

Wanamaker approaches his role with a positive outlook, what he sees as “the ability to really effect change in the community toward the positive.” He entered public service after working as an architect because he realized he wanted to shape communities, not just design buildings.

In his 20 months on the job, Wanamaker has started to foster an open dialogue between city council members, residents and local business owners with his hands-on approach to running the city’s affairs.

“It works very well for the community, especially the residents and the businesses that invest here, to understand what we’re doing for them and how we’re determining what priorities are in the city,” he said.

Wanamaker started holding public work sessions to enable community members to learn about the challenges and complexities facing the city in determining its budget expenditures.

While Wanamaker strives to engage in frequent dialogue with Inglewood residents and business owners to gauge what services they need, he said his efforts are “nowhere near enough” due to short staffing at city hall and time constraints. He often works 12-hour days, and is on call 24 hours a day.

“It’s a never-ending cycle for you and you just have to learn how to deal with that type of work structure,” he said. “I love what I do.”

The 45-year-old La Puente, Calif., native lives in Century City with his wife, Zina, and daughter, Sydni. He commits to spending time with his daughter on weekends since he has so many tasks to accomplish during the week.

“I try to make sure that I take her to school in the morning because I’m not likely to see her before she goes to bed at night,” he said. “On the weekends, it’s really about her and spending time with her.”

Before Wanamaker moved with his family to lead Inglewood’s city administration, he served five years as the executive director of the Office of Strategic Planning in Buffalo, New York. He was president of the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., the main development agency in the city of Buffalo, while working in New York as well.

He previously served as the deputy chief of the Redevelopment Authority of Prince George’s County, a Washington, D.C. suburb.

In what he called one of the “toughest professional decisions” of his life, Wanamaker resigned from his post as the top city planner in Buffalo to take on a higher role in municipal government.

“The ability to work on both coasts and different types of structures of government — it’s really my experiences that I have gained that have really helped me perform at this level, as the city administrator for the city of Inglewood,” he said.

He currently manages a city undergoing administrative changes with the resignation of former Mayor Roosevelt Dorn, who served more than a decade in office.

“The Council has been very good at working to understand what is needed and taking actions that they need to take to ensure that we keep the city’s business moving forward,” he said. “That was done day one after Mayor Dorn’s resignation.”

While continuity and order has been maintained, the additional costs required to hold a special election and possibly a runoff election for a new mayor were not anticipated, he said.

“From a management standpoint, it’s a bit of a challenge but it’s not the worse thing that could happen to us,” he added.

In a city suffering like many others from a faltering national economy, Wanamaker has made headway in accomplishing his goal to enhance the city’s financial stability by negotiating the Hollywood Park redevelopment project to transform the 238-acre space into a casino, residential properties, retail and restaurants, which he hopes will bring in much-needed revenue.

For the first time in a couple of decades, Inglewood revamped its Web site to provide greater accessibility for its many low-income residents unfamiliar with Internet usage.

“There has been a real outcry for transparency,” he said. “The residents… really love this city and they wear it on their shoulders. They are very, very enthusiastic in ensuring this city is all that it can be. They are very vocal in making sure that we understand as administrators what they’d like this city to be, both now and in the future.”

Wanamaker’s introductory video message on the city’s new Web site says: “Know that all of us in city government look forward to communicating with you and providing you with the highest level of service.”

“I’ve been very surprised how many people have told me that they’ve seen me on the Web site, so it’s good to see that people are starting to take use of it,” he said. “It’s accomplishing exactly what we want.”

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