Meet San Diego’s New Neighborhoods Chief

Meet San Diego’s New Neighborhoods Chief

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Stacey LoMedico is assistant chief operating officer of the city of San Diego.

In October, the city of San Diego’s top managers made a startling admission. The city had become, “a reactive organization lacking proper oversight to ensure that taxpayer dollars were being appropriately and effectively managed,” a report to the City Council said.

To remedy that, the Council approved a dramatic City Hall reorganization that added five high-level positions. Stacey LoMedico, the head of the city’s park and recreation department and a nearly 30-year city employee, became one of them.

LoMedico’s title is assistant chief operating officer, making her No. 2 on the management side. She’ll oversee all the issues that are in vogue in city politics: parks, libraries, streets, planning and economic development.

In the spring, the city will have its fourth mayor in two years, counting current interim leader Todd Gloria. No matter who wins, LoMedico sees the refashioned management team’s role as implementing what the next mayor wants.

We talked about how the city’s new structure and LoMedico’s own experience will make that happen.

You said the structure is not going to change once the new mayor comes in. The new mayor will be in charge of this structure just like he’ll be in charge of everything else. How are you sure this structure won’t change?

In terms of the structure not changing, obviously that was voted on in October and it was a unanimous vote, including the two candidates. That’s a good indication that the structure won’t change. There may be changes in terms of goals and priorities and what they want us to focus on. That’s what we’re here to do.

You’re in charge of the economic development department. How does a government create a job?

It creates a job through various things. Capital improvements. Taking away the barriers for small businesses that want to come in. Assisting local residents who want to go through Development Services and get permits. There are a variety and multiple ways to create jobs.

What is one barrier currently that you think exists at the city?

Communication and lack of information. I think people are confused in terms of being able to access the information that they need. I hear a lot in terms of individuals who may call one department and get transferred to another department.

One of the barriers is we’ve had a lot of change. We’ve had a lot of organizational changes, we’ve had new employees, long-term employees – just because it’s an aging workforce – have left. So we need to rebuild the knowledge and make sure people know what other departments do so we’re not working in silos that we’re working together.

Ultimately does the city need more money to deal with infrastructure?

I will tell you that the city is at a point where there are a lot of things that we want to get done. Infrastructure, increased service levels and all of that costs money. As we move forward with the new mayor, that’s going to have to be something we’re going to have to work on.

Do you expect the city to have to ask for more money?

It depends on what the final decision is on what the mayor and the Council want to do.

What have you seen as far as change in opportunities and positions of leadership for women in the city over the time that you’ve been here?

I think the culture has changed. I can remember when I was newly hired I was on the financial management floor. I can remember the discussion of, there was a woman who was a director at the time, and I can remember all of us saying, “Oh my goodness, that’s amazing.” As time has gone by, I think that shock and discussion has gone away to where when women are hired for high-level positions you reflect that as to the most qualified. There’s not this, “Wow that’s great.” That shock.

To what extent did the situation with the previous administration affect that?

I don’t want to talk about the previous administration. I’ve been here for over 20 years. That was nine months. It’s a part of the 26 years, but don’t really want to talk about it.

When you first became parks director in 2007 your budget was about $84 million. It went up for a few years. Then it dropped significantly and it didn’t get back to $84 million until 2012. How did the boom and bust cycle for the park and rec budget shape what you expect your job to be now?

Empathy. Going through that gave me a better understanding of the impacts. I also think that going through that provided me a realization that I can adapt and that I can change and that I can assist others in adapting and changing and be able to lead them through a vortex that in that case was pretty horrific. I’m excited because I think in my position that’s going to be something that I’m going to be doing and leading and working with others on.

My overall experience in park and rec being a frontline department, I understand just how important every system and department is in delivering frontline services. Yes, it’s critical for the rec leader and the grounds maintenance worker and they are the first and we would be lost without them. But they need supplies, they need equipment, they need all of those things to perform their jobs. That means purchasing and auditors and controllers all have to work and are just as important to the person who’s actually delivering it even though they may never see that deliverance.

You said your ability to live through it will help others. Presumably you don’t mean substantial cuts in the budget?

Change.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon

Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

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34 comments
Elyse Lowe
Elyse Lowe subscribermember

Excited to see an experienced woman leader like Stacey keeping track of neighborhood issues at City Hall. I think this is great for the City.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster

It's inspiring to me that San Diego can continue to attract high quality leaders to stay with the organization despite all the turmoil and attacks on public employment in general.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

It's inspiring to me that San Diego can continue to attract high quality leaders to stay with the organization despite all the turmoil and attacks on public employment in general.

Barry Jagoda
Barry Jagoda

What is Ms. LoMedico doing about the Stink in La Jolla? (And, for Ms. Libby: Where is that piece you promised you'd ask Ms. Lisa Halverstadt to work up on the Sea Lion caused smell and health hazards, now even worse, in La Jolla, please?)

Barry Jagoda
Barry Jagoda subscribermember

What is Ms. LoMedico doing about the Stink in La Jolla? (And, for Ms. Libby: Where is that piece you promised you'd ask Ms. Lisa Halverstadt to work up on the Sea Lion caused smell and health hazards, now even worse, in La Jolla, please?)

Michael Clark
Michael Clark

Doesn't the reorg only add three positions, not five? Weren't the Assistant COO and CFO positions already budgeted, but filled with interim appointees?

Michael Clark
Michael Clark subscriber

Doesn't the reorg only add three positions, not five? Weren't the Assistant COO and CFO positions already budgeted, but filled with interim appointees?

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

How much are we paying this person? What is her pension going to be?

We don't need more top heavy employees taking bug gulps at the gold plated tax fountain. Privatize these wastes and get them out of my pocket.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

How much are we paying this person? What is her pension going to be?

We don't need more top heavy employees taking bug gulps at the gold plated tax fountain. Privatize these wastes and get them out of my pocket.

Jan Lord
Jan Lord

Ms LoMedco is an amazing leader and the City of San Diego is lucky to have her! When Park & Rec was cut to the bone, she worked hard and thought out of the box to keep things running for the kids, for seniors, for the community!

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin

Liam
"the Council approved a dramatic City Hall reorganization that added five high-level positions."
Any idea of how much this costs?

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

Liam
"the Council approved a dramatic City Hall reorganization that added five high-level positions."
Any idea of how much this costs?

David Millette
David Millette

she is bad for San Diego when in charge of parks she stated she knew busking rules violated 1st amendment an she didnt care

David Millette
David Millette subscriber

she is bad for San Diego when in charge of parks she stated she knew busking rules violated 1st amendment an she didnt care

chiggins
chiggins

Stacey is and will continue to be a strong advocate for the community because she knows the needs of all of San Diego by the great work she did as our Park Director. She had to make lemonade out of lemons during the Sanders administration that cut her department to the bone. She is not afraid to get her hands dirty or work hard to find a solution. A real can do person! We are so lucky to have her. Thanks to COO Chadwick for this great hire!

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw

"How does a government create a job?" LoMedico’s answer is accidentally misleading. When she says “Capital Improvements”, I have no idea what she’s talking about, expanding the Convention Center maybe? But when she talks about removing barriers for small businesses that want to come in and helping people navigate Development Services, she’s real close to the essence of the problems with city management.

Most of the jobs created by government in the private sector are those required to achieve compliance with government mandates, and many of the jobs created within government are to administer those same mandates. A current example is the inventory of foreclosed homes, which is adding staff to the city payroll and requiring lending institutions to create reports for city staff to react to. Another is the so-called “linkage fee”, which is nothing but a tax on new construction, residential excepted, of up to $5.00 per square foot. Ditto the “living wage ordinance”, which costs all parties money and achieves next to nothing.

Hiring government employees to help the public cope with obstacles set up by government is a cruel irony. I remember a lecture the late Steve Jobs gave the president, who was hassling him about bringing jobs home. Jobs said Apple would never build another plant in the U.S., because the red tape made it impossible to react quickly enough to changes in market demand. He described negotiating with Chinese officials who started construction within weeks of an agreement and began recruiting a labor force for him while the plant was built. This doesn’t happen anywhere in California and certainly not in San Diego.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

"How does a government create a job?" LoMedico’s answer is accidentally misleading. When she says “Capital Improvements”, I have no idea what she’s talking about, expanding the Convention Center maybe? But when she talks about removing barriers for small businesses that want to come in and helping people navigate Development Services, she’s real close to the essence of the problems with city management.

Most of the jobs created by government in the private sector are those required to achieve compliance with government mandates, and many of the jobs created within government are to administer those same mandates. A current example is the inventory of foreclosed homes, which is adding staff to the city payroll and requiring lending institutions to create reports for city staff to react to. Another is the so-called “linkage fee”, which is nothing but a tax on new construction, residential excepted, of up to $5.00 per square foot. Ditto the “living wage ordinance”, which costs all parties money and achieves next to nothing.

Hiring government employees to help the public cope with obstacles set up by government is a cruel irony. I remember a lecture the late Steve Jobs gave the president, who was hassling him about bringing jobs home. Jobs said Apple would never build another plant in the U.S., because the red tape made it impossible to react quickly enough to changes in market demand. He described negotiating with Chinese officials who started construction within weeks of an agreement and began recruiting a labor force for him while the plant was built. This doesn’t happen anywhere in California and certainly not in San Diego.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster

Mr. Jones: Is it fair to say you will not be satisfied until there is no municipal government?

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

Mr. Jones: Is it fair to say you will not be satisfied until there is no municipal government?

Andrew Keatts
Andrew Keatts

Hi Mark, the overall City Hall reorganization cost the city $990,000 in its first year, paid for by various one-time sources. That increase will need to be accounted for in the normal budgeting process in future years. http://voiceofsandiego.org/2013/10/28/city-prepares-to-unleash-bill-fulton/City Prepares to Unleash Bill Fultonhttp://voiceofsandiego.org/2013/10/28/city-prepares-to-unleash-bill-fulton/The special election to replace Bob Filner is in its final stretch - but the City Council on Monday might quietly usher in a much bigger shakeup to city government as a whole.

Andrew Keatts
Andrew Keatts author

Hi Mark, the overall City Hall reorganization cost the city $990,000 in its first year, paid for by various one-time sources. That increase will need to be accounted for in the normal budgeting process in future years. http://voiceofsandiego.org/2013/10/28/city-prepares-to-unleash-bill-fulton/City Prepares to Unleash Bill Fultonhttp://voiceofsandiego.org/2013/10/28/city-prepares-to-unleash-bill-fulton/The special election to replace Bob Filner is in its final stretch - but the City Council on Monday might quietly usher in a much bigger shakeup to city government as a whole.

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster

Mr. Millette: Could you point to where she said that?

Chris Brewster
Chris Brewster subscribermember

Mr. Millette: Could you point to where she said that?

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson

Alex: its arrival seemed to be much later than the December Nights, and a lot of people seemed to think it was associated with an additional gift to the Park. The airline already did receive much mention at the event itself. And no past sponsor of DN was every given post-event publicity, to my knowledge. Anyway, not much openness on this and a bad trend, in my opinion.

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson

"Capital improvements" probably refers to that crazy Jacobs plan that won't die, that she was one of the hardest workers for. And speaking of transparency, is she going to tell us how much Southwest Airlines paid for that "billboard" in the newly-opened Plaza de Panama? Is that really why it was opened up to pedestrians?

Andrew Keatts
Andrew Keatts

Hey Bill, though it works a bit differently than the linkage fee, the city does charge residential construction a fee used to provide subsidized housing. It's called the inclusionary housing fee, though it's often satisfied by developers providing either 10 percent or 5 percent (for condos) of the project's total units solely for households earning the median income or lower. http://www.sandiego.gov/development-services/pdf/industry/infobulletin/ib532.pdf

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson subscriber

Alex: its arrival seemed to be much later than the December Nights, and a lot of people seemed to think it was associated with an additional gift to the Park. The airline already did receive much mention at the event itself. And no past sponsor of DN was every given post-event publicity, to my knowledge. Anyway, not much openness on this and a bad trend, in my opinion.

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson subscriber

"Capital improvements" probably refers to that crazy Jacobs plan that won't die, that she was one of the hardest workers for. And speaking of transparency, is she going to tell us how much Southwest Airlines paid for that "billboard" in the newly-opened Plaza de Panama? Is that really why it was opened up to pedestrians?

Andrew Keatts
Andrew Keatts author

Hey Bill, though it works a bit differently than the linkage fee, the city does charge residential construction a fee used to provide subsidized housing. It's called the inclusionary housing fee, though it's often satisfied by developers providing either 10 percent or 5 percent (for condos) of the project's total units solely for households earning the median income or lower. http://www.sandiego.gov/development-services/pdf/industry/infobulletin/ib532.pdf

AlexRoth
AlexRoth

For the record, the Southwest Airlines Gift Box was part of a sponsorship for Balboa Park December Nights—an event that is free to the public due to sponsorship funding

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw

Andrew, I'd like to say you made my day by revealing another city fee I wasn't aware of, but I feel a bit ill right now. "Affordable" housing works like the Affordable Care Act. It may be affordable for the recipients of the subsidy, but it sure isn't for the taxpayers. The price per square foot to build the stuff is off the scale, as the VOSD series a year or two ago demonstrated. Check it out.

When you subsidize something for "median" income people, I'm reminded of the great Garrison Keillor gag about all the kids in Lake Wobegone being above average. It just doesn't make sense.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

Andrew, I'd like to say you made my day by revealing another city fee I wasn't aware of, but I feel a bit ill right now. "Affordable" housing works like the Affordable Care Act. It may be affordable for the recipients of the subsidy, but it sure isn't for the taxpayers. The price per square foot to build the stuff is off the scale, as the VOSD series a year or two ago demonstrated. Check it out.

When you subsidize something for "median" income people, I'm reminded of the great Garrison Keillor gag about all the kids in Lake Wobegone being above average. It just doesn't make sense.