Mayor cleans house ahead of his new term

Mayor Gavin Newsom, days before he begins his second term Tuesday, cleaned house, issuing sweeping leadership changes in major city departments such as the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Department of Public Works.

As part of the 27 personnel changes announced Friday, Newsom also brought in considerable policy and political experience at the state and national levels, giving a nod to the 40-year-old mayor’s aspirations beyond the local level.

The changes were the result of Newsom’s September announcment that he wanted offers of resignation from all department heads, commissioners and senior staff in order to begin his second term as mayor with a clean slate.

The biggest change was the firing of SFPUC General Manager Susan Leal, a former supervisor and a mayoral opponent to Newsom in 2003, to be replaced by current City Controller Ed Harrington. Because Leal is under contract, the SFPUC must vote to break the contract — bringing her a severance — and then vote to appoint Harrington, a process unlikely to happen for several months, Harrington said.

Leal was recently hit by a car outside of City Hall and will stay on as general manager as she recovers, Harrington said.

“She does have to recover, so we didn’t want to push anything faster than she wanted to go,” he said.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said Monday that reports Leal was pressured out by Newsom had rubbed some the wrong way because she would receive roughly $500,000 in severance when The City faces an estimated $229 million budget deficit.

Dr. Fred Abadi, director of public works, was fired and replaced by Ed Reiskin, the 311 director who left his position as interim city administrator of the District of Columbia in June. Nancy Alfaro, 311 deputy director, will take Reiskin’s old job.

Ben Rosenfield, an assistant city administrator, will fill the controller’s position for Newsom. Mirian Saez is the interim director of the San Francisco Housing Authority taking over for Gregg Fortner, who resigned in September after Newsom’s request for offers of resignation.

Heidi Machen lost her job as Taxicab Commission director to now-acting Director Jordanna Thigpen.

On the mayor’s senior staff, the mayor picked up Catherine Dodd from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s district office, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s Greening Director Astrid Haryati, and Nancy Rodriguez, who worked at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under Andrew Cuomo.

dsmith@examiner.com

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