Newsom names new communications director

The new voice of the Mayor’s Office has been revealed.

Tony Winnicker, who has been the public information officer for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, is the new communications director for Newsom, according to the Mayor’s Office.

Winnicker replaces Nathan Ballard, who left the administration in early November. Ballard had served in that role since February 2007.

“Tony Winnicker brings years of Bay Area and national experience in strategic communications, public information and media relations to our team,” Newsom said in a statement.

Winnicker will officially begin as communications director on Jan. 11.

Due to The City’s budget woes, Winnicker said he will take a 12.5 percent pay cut to assume the new role, from $164,000 to $144,000 annually.

“We all have to tighten our belts,” Winnicker said.

Newsom’s new right-hand-man said he took the job so he can ensure The City continues to be a center of innovation and reform. He said he also wants to help create and maintain jobs for all San Franciscans.

Ballard told The Examiner that Newsom couldn’t have picked anyone better for the job, describing Winnicker as “level-headed,” “highly intelligent” and a “first-rate strategist.”

Winnicker has worked as SFPUC chief spokesman since 2004. In the role, he became well-known among members of the media and folks in City Hall. He’s overseen major projects to seismically upgrade the Hetch Hetchy water system, helped launch solar energy incentive program GoSolarSF and kept the media abreast of major state water legislation, among other accomplishments, officials said.

“There’s mutual respect between Tony and the press core that has been built up over the years,” Ballard said.

Winnicker previously served as communications director for San Francisco 2012, the Bay Area’s failed bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, and well as campaign manager for political, issue advocacy and ballot measure campaigns in California, the Mayor’s Office said.

Winnicker will likely have more of the mayor’s attention than Ballard was awarded when Newsom had been running for governor of California.

The mayor dropped out of the race on Oct. 30. Newsom, a new father, said he found it near-impossible to juggle a grueling state race while running a city and trying to spend time with his family.

Winnicker denied the notion that the mayor paid less attention to The City while running for governor.

“I would argue that he never lost his focus on The City,” Winnicker said, adding that the mayor wants to make the most of the remaining months of his second term.

Newsom term ends January 2012.

Newsom’s staff has been undergoing changes since his departure from the governor’s race.

Last month, Kevin Ryan, director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, resigned. Also announcing his departure was Department of Environment chief Jared Blumenfeld, who is headed to a gig with the Environmental Protection Agency. Film Commission executive director Stefanie Coyote was dismissed.

The mayor recently hired Yashar Hedayat, who worked on his gubernatorial campaign, as deputy chief of staff in charge of operations, and dismissed two members on the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services staff.

Hedayat will earn $131,000 per year rather than the $145,000 usually offered in the position due to The City’s budget troubles, the Mayor’s Office said.
 

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