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Santa Monica’s Deputy City Manager to Retire this Summer

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By Jason Islas
Lookout reporter

March 5, 2014 -- After nearly 30 years in Santa Monica City Hall, Deputy City Manager, Kate Vernez, will retire this summer.

A driving force in everthing from cleaning up groundwater contamination to bringing the Expo Light Rail to Santa Monica, Vernez is also widely viewed as consensus builder.

With her second grandchild on the way, Vernez, who will celebrate her work anniversary this month, has decided to leave her position with the City in early July.

“It's gonna be a real loss. She's a wonderful person to work with,” said Councilmember Bob Holbrook. “I will miss her.”

As the longest-sitting City Council member, Holbrook’s civic career began three years after Vernez came to Santa Monica from New York in 1987 where she worked as an assistant commissioner for Intergovernmental Relations in New York Mayor Ed Koch's administration.

“Kate is one of the most respected and beloved professional employees of the City of Santa Monica,” said City Manager Rod Gould.

“She brings a wealth of community knowledge, empathy, positive energy and policy and communication smarts to the job every day,” said Gould.

Shortly after the turn of the century, Vernez became instrumental in resolving the MtBE water contamination controversy and cable franchise negotiations and compliance.

As the face of Santa Monica in intergovernmental relations, Vernez spent her career involved in a wide range of issues, said Mayor Pam O’Connor.

“I’m going to miss Kate terribly,” said O’Connor. “She has been working with me on Expo for well over a decade.

“There have been a lot of ups-and-downs in the process,” O’Connor said. “Kate’s been there every step of the way.”

To do Vernez’s job, O’Connor said, “You have to be pretty smart, you have to be pretty nimble and you have to be pretty diplomatic.”

During her career, Vernez earned a reputation for being able to coordinate large and often disparate interest groups.

In 2011, then-Councilmember Bobby Shriver named an amendment to a council vote the “Vernez rider” because it gave City staff the ability to coordinate with the City of Los Angeles on the future of the Santa Monica airport.

O’Connor said, “I do expect to see her at the opening of Expo. I expect her to come back from wherever she is.”

The Expo Light Rail is expected to open in early 2016, connecting Downtown Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles by rail for the first time in 50 years.

“Kate came to us from New York City government where she picked up terrific intergovernmental skills which have served Santa Monica well over the years,” said former City Manager Susan McCarthy, who worked with Vernez from 1999 to 2005.

“She's a good communicator and strategist,” said McCarthy. “I'm very glad she didn't retire on my watch. I'd have missed her acutely!”

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