Screenshot of city of Oakland website, still featuring departed City Administrator Deanna Santana.
Screen shot of City of Oakland website, still featuring departed City Administrator Deanna Santana.

Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana is making a quick exit from her post as, arguably, the city’s most powerful official. Mayor Jean Quan announced the move, and the appointment of Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell to the top job, on Monday.

Quan didn’t cite a reason for the departure, but Santana’s desire to move on was no secret. In recent months. she was named as a candidate for city administrator jobs in Dallas and Phoenix.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson quoted “sources close to Santana”” as saying she wanted out because “her efforts to put the city on solid financial ground have been repeatedly undermined by the Oakland City Council and Mayor Jean Quan, including their refusal to place limits on escalating labor contracts of municipal workers.

Santana’s tenure was marked by several high-profile crises in the city, including its widely criticized handling of the Occupy Oakland protests of 2011-12, its continuing attempts to comply with court-ordered reforms in the Police Department, a spike in violence and property crimes, rapid turnover in Police Department management and a loss of rank-and-file officers.

Despite being entangled in those issues, Santana was widely praised by members of the City Council as word of her departure spread. Here’s City Council President Pat Kernighan, talking to the Chron:

I will miss her. I am really grateful for the extraordinary hard work and dedication she had. As the city administrator, she guided us through some very hard times, including Occupy protests, budget shortfalls and the “constant public safety crises. The woman is very talented, and she worked harder than anyone on the planet.

In a statement, Quan glossed over any differences and said that, given Santana’s high-profile role in Oakland, it was inevitable she’d be recruited for other jobs:

It’s clear that’s happening now: major cities across the country want to try what Oakland has been doing. Deanna has been a tireless worker and leader, and together we made great strides stabilizing and strengthening the city’s finances through the recession and the loss of the state’s Redevelopment program, as well as reorganizing and rebuilding our police department. I thank Deanna for her service and wish her the best.

Blackwell, the new city administrator, is an Oakland native who headed San Francisco’s Redevelopment Agency before becoming Santana’s second-in-command in 2011. Here’s what Quan had to say about him:

I am excited to make this appointment and continue my work with Fred in a new role. Anyone who works with Fred immediately recognizes that his reputation as a brilliant, dedicated, get-it-done leader is well deserved. These skills, together with his deep roots as an Oakland native and his passion for our city, make him the perfect choice to help carry forward our priorities of public safety and economic development.

Blackwell’s appointment requires City Council confirmation.


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area's transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED's comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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