Inglewood City Administrator Tim Wanamaker Resigns

imageFor two months, Inglewood has been without an official mayor. Now the city is also without its lead manager. Inglewood City Administrator Tim Wanamaker abruptly resigned Wednesday, about a month before hitting his two-year mark in office, and ended his service to the city and its residents the following day. The reason for Wanamaker’s departure is still unclear.

At the city council meeting March 9, Councilwoman Judy Dunlap fired off a list of demands at Wanamaker. Less than two weeks later, he was through taking orders.

Wanamaker admitted that his biggest challenge in his role as Inglewood’s city administrator was reporting to the mayor and council members.

“They are my bosses,” he said in an earlier interview. “They set the policy and it’s my job to carry it out.”

However, Wanamaker left office after nearly two years in the position without completing all the policy requests from the council. He failed to negotiate a new contract with the production company behind Inglewood Community Television, the local public access cable channel run by the South Bay Performing Arts Initiative, according to Dunlap.

He negotiated the $2 billion deal to redevelop Inglewood’s Hollywood Park into restaurants, retail and residential property during his tenure.

“I have enjoyed the tremendous challenge of working with the wonderful team of dedicated public servants and staff to improve the City’s infrastructure as well as its business and family environment for the wonderful people who live and work here,” Wanamaker said in his statement of resignation.

“While I am proud of the progress the City has made during my nearly two years in this demanding role, many challenges remain ahead for the elected leaders as well as my future successor,” Wanamaker continued. “I offer my best wishes to everyone who accepts the responsibility of continuing to provide critically needed services to this great community in the years ahead, and offer my sincere thanks for the great opportunity I have had in my role as City Administrator.”

The city council accepted Wanamaker’s resignation and Sheldon Curry, assistant city administrator for development, will take over his duties in the meantime. Along with a special election to fill the empty mayoral seat, a new city administrator must be chosen to replace Wanamaker.

“We are confident that the city will continue to move forward with projects and initiatives that are important to our community without interruption while we seek his replacement,” Mayor Pro Tempore Eloy Morales said in a statement on behalf of the council.

The council will hold a special meeting Monday morning where they will likely confirm an interim city administrator, according to Deputy City Administrator and Chief Information Officer Michael Falkow, since the last scheduled open session meeting was canceled due to a bomb threat that lead to the evacuation of city hall.

“It’ll be a challenge, but we’ve gotten through it before and I’m sure we’ll get through it again,” said Falkow, who served as acting city administrator just before Wanamaker took office and helped prepare him for the transition to Inglewood. “He’ll be missed. He was young and vibrant and he pushed a lot of folks to do their best work. That’s the mark of a good city manager and a good leader.”

It took the council more than a year to appoint Wanamaker to serve as city administrator, Falkow said. Until the council makes its new appointment, Curry and Falkow will work alongside Jeff Muir, the assistant city administrator and chief financial officer, to handle city requests and continue operating its administration.

“From an administrative perspective, it’s a challenge because it’s like a ship. You need somebody to be the captain,” Fakow said. “The council needs a point person. They need someone they can go to as a singular entity for all of their requests and to make sure things funnel up.”

Wanamaker’s sudden resignation came as a surprise, he said.

“He was very upbeat, very pleasant,” Falkow said about Wanamaker’s departure. “He wished us all success in the future and did reiterate that we definitely have some challenges in the organization and that he was proud of what he had accomplished and what we had all accomplished as a team over the last nearly two years.”

The city’s affairs are not at a standstill despite the lack of an official mayor or city administrator.

“The real challenge at the city is obviously moving forward and tackling those big problems like the budget,” Falkow said regarding the city’s structural deficit. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

More on Inglewood’s political struggle:

Former Inglewood mayor charged with misusing public funds will receive retirement benefits

The night before he was forced out of office, Inglewood’s former Mayor Roosevelt Dorn officially retired, meaning he is entitled to nearly $40,000 a year in retirement benefits for the rest of his life, according to City Administrator Timothy Wanamaker and city council members.

Second District Councilwoman Judy Dunlap explained that city officials receive 3 percent of their salary for each year they worked. Since Dorn, 74, worked 13 years, from 1997 to 2010, he is eligible to earn 39 percent of his salary each year until his death. Dorn’s salary was more than $100,000, said Dunlap.

Fourth District Councilman Ralph Franklin called Dorn’s move, “prudent and strategic decision making.” When asked if it was fair, Franklin said, “As a politician, I have to say yes.”

Dorn pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor conflict of interest charge in January after receiving a loan from a city housing incentive program.

More stories on Former Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn:
The rise and fall of former Inglewood Mayor Roosevelt Dorn
DORN RESIGNS: Jury selection continues for Inglewood mayor

What does the future hold for the city of Inglewood? In-depth coverage of the city’s political transition:


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.”