Newsom’s chief of staff resigns post

Mayor Gavin Newsom rolls into the New Year surrounded by several new high-level advisers, including a new chief of staff, after a major shake-up of his inner circle.

The changes come as Newsom moves into an election year and in the wake of several political setbacks, including an announcement by the San Francisco 49ers that the team plans to move to Santa Clara, the loss of a bid for the 2016 Olympic Games due to the lack of a secure stadium plan and local election results in November that boosted the strength of his progressive critics.

On Friday, mayoral chief of staff Steve Kawa resigned, after 15 years at City Hall, to spend more time with his spouse and their children, according to a statement released by Newsom’s press office.

“I understand and support Steve’s desire to spend more time with his young family,” Newsom is quoted as saying. “He will remain one of my most trusted friends and advisers in the years ahead.”

Kawa, who also worked for former Mayor Willie Brown, became Newsom’s chief of staff when the mayor was elected in 2003. When Newsom authorized marriage licenses to same-sex couples two years ago, the mayor officiated at Kawa’s wedding.

City officials praised the work done by Kawa during his tenure.

“Steve is one of the most capable, hardworking, accomplished, decent people to ever work in City Hall,” Supervisor Bevan Dufty said, adding that he has known Kawa since 1993, when they were both legislative aides to the Board of Supervisors. “But City Hall can be a grind. After 15 years I can understand that he’s good to take a break.”

Several City Hall insiders, who did not want to go on the record, said the mayor’s press secretary, Peter Ragone, often battled with the chief of staff, who oversaw budget matters, among other responsibilities. Ragone declined to comment Friday.

Deputy press secretary Jennifer Petrucione said Kawa had stayed longer than he had originally planned.

“Steve Kawa told us from day one that he would come on board just to get the administration going, and now he’s been on for three years,” she said.

Newsom’s new chief of staff will be Phil Ginsberg, The City’s human resources head. Ginsberg led Newsom’s effort to reform The City’s civil service system.

“Phil brings enormous institutional knowledge and a spirit of innovation to the position of chief of staff,” Newsom said.

On Friday, the mayor also lost his budget director, Noelle Simmons, who moves to a new job as deputy director of policy and planning in The City’s Human Services Agency.

Petrucione said Simmons’ transfer was “personal, based on where she thought she would be most effective in city government.”

Simmons will be replaced as budget director by Nani Coloretti, who will work under the title of director of policy and finance.

The mayor’s previous director of policy was Julianne Potter, who moved into the job of deputy chief of staff, replacing another Newsom insider, Alex Tourk, who is now heading up the mayor’s re-election campaign.

Petrucione said such changes were part of the “natural evolution of any administration.”

beslinger@examiner.com

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