Thursday, June 14, 2001
D’Amato Lauded as Good Choice to Head Degadillo’s Staff
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
A few days after the surprise selection of Deputy Mayor Ann D’Amato to be chief of staff for incoming City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, City Hall denizens are calling the choice a smart move.
“She knows what she’s doing,” First Council District chief of staff Tony Perez said. “She’s very keen politically as far as the workings of City Hall.”
Perez, who currently heads the staff of Councilman Mike Hernandez and is taking a post on the staff of incoming member Ed Reyes, said D’Amato’s best asset may be that people like working with her.
“That will serve her well from the get-go,” Perez said.
Friends said D’Amato, a City Hall veteran of nearly 30 years, was preparing to file her retirement papers when Delgadillo called on her to lead his staff.
Staunchly loyal to Mayor Richard Riordan, D’Amato was a strong supporter of her fellow deputy mayor’s quest for the city attorney post even before Riordan official endorsed Delgadillo. In her, observers say, Delgadillo has brought aboard an accomplished administrator who brings not just links to Riordan but respect among the council members and others in City Hall with whom Riordan often squabbled.
“Her people skills are just tremendous,” minority business outreach program director Diane Sallee said. “Everybody likes Ann D’Amato.”
The choice drew some attention because the city attorney-elect, who defeated Councilman Mike Feuer at the polls June 5, opted for a non-lawyer for his top deputy.
Delgadillo spokeswoman Kristina Scott said a chief legal deputy would be selected soon to oversee law functions. Scott declined to discuss the nature of D’Amato’s role, and how similar or different it would be from the job held by attorney Tim McOsker under outgoing City Attorney James Hahn.
Hahn, who is due to be sworn in as mayor next month, is taking McOsker with him to head his staff.
Scott said further announcements were due soon on Delgadillo’s transition team and staff selections. Although deputy city attorneys are not covered by the civil service system, they gain “tenure” after two years in the office. The city attorney gets to select eight top deputies not covered by tenure.
D’Amato is a native of the San Pedro area. Sallee said her father and brother still work in the fishing industry at the harbor.
Her first job in the city was in the Department of Public Works, but she soon went to work in the field office for Councilman John Gibson, who represented the harbor area. That’s where she met Sallee, who said D’Amato quickly became a council deputy and then senior deputy for Gibson.
When another Gibson protégé, Joan Milke Flores, was elected to succeed her mentor, D’Amato moved out of the field office and became a City Hall specialist in the legislative process.
Flores said D’Amato made her mark by her ability to grasp the legislative issues and procedures and by winning over staff members and bureaucrats with her personality.
“She had a lot of responsibility when she was in my office, and of course she has just continued to have more and more,” Flores said. “I think the new city attorney I very fortunate to have her. She is very well respected by the City Council.”
D’Amato went to Riordan’s office as chief of protocol, a position that drew on her knowledge of City Hall hierarchies. She later became a Riordan field representative, back in her old district, working closely with Flores’ successor, Councilman Rudy Svorinich.
“She is very, very astute on the operations of City Hall,” Svorinich staff chief Barry Glickman said. “I believe she is going to do very well for the new city attorney.”
Sallee brought D’Amato—who has a business degree from the University of Redlands—into the Minority Business Opportunity Committee, which performs contract outreach for the city and for the Alameda Corridor project, and she became a marketing representative for the city. That’s where she was when Delgadillo, who had been promoted by Riordan to deputy mayor for economic development, took notice.
She went to work as a Delgadillo aide, then got her own promotion to deputy mayor for legislative and community affairs. In that role, she manages one of the largest staffs in the mayor’s office.
“She was really in demand,” Sallee said, adding that the perspective of several decades in City Hall is invaluable, especially to new elected officials.
“With term limits it’s good to have someone who has that history with the city.”
The interplay between the city attorney and the rest of City Hall is little noticed, but relationships are crucial to the office’s success. Glickman noted that lawsuits against the city often name every council member, and the city attorney must represent them. The city attorney also must rely on the council to back his draft legislation.
“There are issues of housing, there are issues of redevelopment in which the relationship with the city attorney is crucial,” Glickman said. “You need someone with the perspective who has been on the council side, who knows how it works.”
Lee Kanon Alpert, an Encino attorney and staunch Delgadillo supporter who currently serves on Riordan’s Airport Commission, lauded D’Amato for her “conciliatory approach” and her ability to separate personalities from the issues.
“She was a great catch for him” Alpert said. “They worked together as peers. They’ll be a great complement to each other. It’s going to be good.”
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company