John Russo begins his new job as Riverside
city manager in May.
Although Russo’s departure appears on the surface to have been abrupt, there have been persistent rumblings in Alameda that the gregarious city administrator was unhappy with the new direction of the Alameda City Council following last November’s election.
Two new members of the five-person council, including Mayor Trish Spencer, ran on a successful platform of slow growth in Alameda. Their agenda of limiting traffic on the land-locked city, in many ways, ran counter to Russo’s continuing work to develop Alameda Point, located on the former Naval Air Station, with housing, commercial use, and open space.
“It was not surprising,” said Councilmember Jim Oddie. “We were lucky to have him." Rumors of Russo’s interest for moving on to another city was known by many at City Hall, he said. “It was only a matter of time.” The surprise election of Spencer last fall was also a factor, he added.
An interim replacement will soon be named to replace Russo preceding a search for a permanent city mananger. “It’s an opportunity now for the new City Council to put a stamp on the city manager’s job,” said Oddie.
According to the report, the Riverside City Council had interviewed six candidates, including Russo, for the position. Riverside has been without a permanent city manager and city attorney since last year.
Coincidentally, Russo is following another Alamedan to Riverside. In 2013, the general manager of Alameda Municipal Power also left to work for the Southern California city.
Alameda Councilmember Tony Daysog said Thursday afternoon that Russo will be missed and he credits him with directing the city’s efforts during the early planning stages at Alameda Point. “By accomplishing these front-end tasks in an orderly and timely manner, John positioned City Council, [former] Mayor Marie Gilmore, and now Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer to find the right developers to help us redevelop Alameda Point with residents' concerns in mind.”
NOTE: this article was updating Friday to include reaction from city officials.
THIS ARTICLE ALSO APPEARS IN THE EAST BAY EXPRESS