The City of Riverside has concluded a nationwide search by selecting John A. Russo as Riverside’s next City Manager, citing his legislative and executive management experience as well as his commitment to fiscal responsibility, responsiveness and transparency.
Russo, who has spent nearly four years as City Manager of Alameda, previously served as the City Attorney of Oakland for 11 years and was a City Council member there for five years prior to that. His 27 years in California’s legal and government communities give him an extensive professional network in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
“John Russo really stood out among the many exceptional candidates who sought to lead our city’s more than 2,400 employees,” Mayor Rusty Bailey said. “His breadth of knowledge on the issues facing California, as well as his commitment to providing residents with a high degree of customer service, made him our top choice.”
Russo will take over the job from Interim City Manager Lee C. McDougal, who has served since former City Manager Scott Barber retired Dec. 28. Russo will be introduced to the Riverside community at a City Council meeting Tuesday (2/24) at 1 p.m. in the council chambers, 3900 Main Street. He expects to conclude his responsibilities in Alameda and join Riverside May 4.
“Riverside has an excellent reputation around the state because of its ability to blend a reverence for its unique local history with an aggressive and groundbreaking public improvement program like the Riverside Renaissance,” Russo said. “My family and I are looking forward to becoming part of such a vibrant and inclusive community.”
While in Alameda, Russo planned and executed the entitlements for redevelopment of the Alameda Naval Air Station, which closed in 1997. Now known as Alameda Point, the 1,000-acre waterfront property across the bay from San Francisco is a huge economic development opportunity for the city.
That entitlement effort, which utilized a vigorous public outreach process, culminated in the property being conveyed to Alameda by the U.S. Navy at no cost. Russo led a team that persuaded the Navy to drop a longstanding demand for a $108.5 million payment, which could have delayed redevelopment of the property for years.
Russo also balanced Alameda’s general fund budget, increasing its reserves while maintaining service levels and creating a 22-year plan for repairing and replacing all city sewers and roads. He oversaw the city’s electric utility, Alameda Municipal Power (AMP), and promoted transparency and responsiveness by requiring city staff to acknowledge all constituent inquiries within one business day.
“John Russo’s accomplishments in Alameda are truly impressive,” said City Councilman Jim Perry, who began the search for a new City Manager last fall when he was Mayor Pro Tem and has shepherded the process in consultation with the executive search firm Ralph Andersen & Associates. The nationally-acclaimed search firm has assisted Riverside in the past with attracting several department heads, including Fire Chief Michael Moore, Public Utilities Director Girish Balachandran and Chief Innovation Officer Lea Deesing.
“His track record in the public policy arena, combined with his success in the areas of economic development and finance, made him an outstanding choice,” Perry said.
Russo graduated cum laude from Yale University and earned his Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law. He worked two years at a legal aid office in St. Louis, Missouri before moving to Oakland in 1987, where he worked as a private attorney until 2000.
Russo served on the Oakland City Council from 1995-2000, where he authored Oakland’s open government law, known as the “sunshine” ordinance. Russo served as Oakland City Attorney from 2000-2011. In both capacities, he worked with current Gov. Jerry Brown, who was Mayor of Oakland from 1999-2007.
Russo is known across the state for his commitment to responsive and innovative local government, said Chris McKenzie, Executive Director of the League of California Cities. Russo served on the League’s Board of Directors from 1998-2007 and was president of League in 2002-03.
“John Russo is passionate about public service and cities, and he has the unique ability to help people see their common goals and to collaborate to achieve them,” McKenzie said. “I congratulate Riverside and John on their new partnership that will allow John to put his passion and abilities to work in service to the people and City of Riverside.”
Russo’s annual salary will be $295,000.