The Irvine City Council has chosen John A. Russo as its finalist for City Manager, and will formally consider hiring him at its July 10 meeting.
Russo has 23 years of results-oriented public service gained through leadership positions in Oakland, Alameda, and Riverside. Having served as a City Councilmember, City Attorney, and City Manager, Russo’s combination of experience at three California cities gives him a unique perspective as he prepares to lead Irvine in implementing the vision at the direction of its City Council.
“It is an extraordinary honor to be selected to serve in this position in a city known across America for its foresight, commitment to public safety, and adherence to financial stability,” said Russo. “Consistent with Irvine’s values, I am committed to open and transparent decision-making – listening to all stakeholders (citizens, business, university, public sector, and faith communities) with an open mind, and equally committed to decisive action and a long-term approach to policy. Process matters. Results matter more.”
Russo most recently served as City Manager for the City of Riverside for nearly three years. His experience in municipal government fits well with Irvine’s priorities. Among the City Council goals in 2018:
- Traffic improvement initiatives that include 16 capital improvement program projects now underway. The City Council has approved more than $71 million for traffic management and congestion improvements, with construction scheduled over the next 12 months.
- City Council support of public safety. For a 12th consecutive year, Irvine is the safest city with a population of 250,000 or more for Part 1 violent crime, according to FBI data.
- The City Council’s ongoing support of its public schools. The City Council provides $10.2 million annually in direct and indirect support.
- The opening of large sections of the Orange County Great Park, including soccer fields, baseball and softball stadiums with multiple playing fields, basketball courts, and the $100 million public ice facility.
- Continued high service to the community.
Highlights from Russo’s background align with Irvine’s focus areas:
- Maintaining Irvine’s renowned employment base – one of the highest jobs-to-population ratios in the country – driven, in part, by major business headquarters such as Edwards Lifesciences and Blizzard Entertainment. Russo last year helped bring the California Air Resources Board’s headquarters and testing facilities to Riverside.
- Developing of the 1,300-acre Orange County Great Park, a former Marine base. While in Alameda, Russo expeditiously implemented all land use entitlements for redevelopment of the closed Alameda Naval Air Station, a 1,000-acre waterfront property across the bay from San Francisco.
- Continuing Irvine’s fiscal health, including its recognition as the No. 1 fiscally responsible large city for two straight years. During Russo’s tenures in both Alameda and Riverside, he eliminated structural deficits, significantly increased financial reserves, and presided over improvements in those cities’ bond ratings.
Russo began his career in public service as an elected official with the City of Oakland, first as a Councilmember from 1994-2000, and then City Attorney from 2000-2011. While in Oakland, he authored the open government law and the “Sunshine Ordinance” to ensure public transparency and full residential access to public information. He then moved to the City of Alameda, where he served as City Manager from 2011-2015.
The Brooklyn native, 59, graduated with honors in economics and political science from Yale University, and earned his law degree from New York University School of Law. He was a Legal Aid attorney in St. Louis before moving to Oakland in 1987, where he was president of Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, treasurer of the East Bay League of Conservation Voters, and pro bono attorney for neighborhood associations and nonprofits. In 2002, Russo served as League of California Cities president; he also was a Board member for the National League of Cities.
Russo would become Irvine’s fifth City Manager. Sean Joyce retired in February 2018 after a nearly 13-year career in Irvine. The first City Manager, William Woollett Jr., served from 1972-1989, followed by Paul Brady (1990-1999) and Allison Hart (1999-2005).
Russo has agreed to a base salary in Irvine of $303,014.