New Board of Public Works Selects Leadership

Boyle Heights native among new commissioners.

By City News Service

Former mayoral hopeful Kevin James was picked Wednesday to lead the board that oversees Los Angeles’ Public Works Department.

James was elected president of the Board of Public Works by his colleagues during the newly formed panel’s first meeting.

The board also chose Monica Rodriguez, a program director for the California Association of Realtors, to serve as vice president. James appointed Matt Szabo, a longtime City Hall staffer, as the board’s president pro tem.

The new board also includes Barbara Romero, an urban projects director for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, and former Assemblyman Mike Davis.

A native of Boyle Heights, Romero previously said she did not realize how “neglected” her neighborhood was until she went off to college.

Romero said she later decided not to move back to Boyle Heights because “there were better amenities and better infrastructure in other neighborhoods” and said that as a commissioner she wants to help “transform and revitalize neighborhoods.”

Unlike other city departments, the Department of Public Works is run by a board of five mayoral appointees, rather than a general manager or director. It has authority over such services as trash and recyclables collection, sewer maintenance, pothole repair and tree trimming.

The commission positions are paid, unlike the city’s other boards, which are staffed by volunteers. Each commissionewr gets a salary of $136,116.72.

With the exception of Romero, all of the members of the new board have run unsuccessfully for city elected office. Szabo made a failed bid for a Hollywood-area council seat and Davis for a South Los Angeles council seat. James wanted to be mayor, but finished third in the March primary, later endorsing Eric Garcetti. Rodriguez made a failed attempt for a San Fernando Valley council seat in 2007.

Each board member will be assigned one of the public works department’s five bureaus and will be responsible for contracts, engineering, sanitation, street lighting or street services. The commissioners will each also be assigned to work with three City Council members.

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August 1, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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