Newsom seeks clean slate, staff resignations

In a move that signals a possible overhaul of City Hall, Mayor Gavin Newsom is asking senior staff, city department heads and commissioners to submit letters of resignation, dated for the end of the calendar year, so that if he’s re-elected, he can make “a lot of changes,” next term, Newsom told The Examiner.

The call to voluntarily submit resignation letters follows meetings the mayor had last week with 14 of the 53 department heads, in which their future was discussed, officials at City Hall said. The mayor announced his request at regurlarly scheduled staff meeting Monday morning.

Newsom said he told his 20 senior advisers last week to start drafting resignation letters and that notices will go out to more than 300 commission members this week.

“None of us are here permanently. We’re all at will, not even department heads,” the mayor said.

Newsom’s talks with specific department heads have fueled rumors at City hall that the mayor plans to use the letters to push a select number of officials out of their jobs.

Newsom sidestepped the question, and said he’s “talked to a lot of department heads, a lot of commissioners, a lot of people already, and there are going to be a lot of changes.”

The mayor added that the request for resignations were “not an indictment of their performance,” but merely a “great way to start a new year.”

In the next breath, however, Newsom also hinted at the troubles he’s had with City Hall staff whom he inherited when he came into office in 2004. Newsom told The Examiner that if he was not re-elected, the letters would give his successor a opportunity he never had — “a chance to shake the administration up in their own image, without the struggle of trying to do that, in a way that is more challenging.”

Newsom has appointed more than 20 department heads during his administration, including the fire chief, police chief, emergency communications director, city administrator, medical examiner, treasurer and the directors of the juvenile and adult probation departments. Among the highest-paid City Hall employees, the vast majority of department heads make six-figure salaries, with a handful making more than $200,000 last year.

As Newsom heads toward re-election in November — with 13 challengers, none of whom with the political clout or fundraising needed to pose a significant threat — the fact that he’s starting to plan changes for his second term means the mayor isn’t going into “cruise control,” University of San Francisco Political Science Professor Corey Cook said.

“It’s an unusual move, although it’s in his power,” Cook said. “If he intends to take people up on that [the letters of resignation], it could be very sweeping come January.”

beslinger@examiner.com 

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