Los Angeles County CEO Sachi Hamai, who coordinates emergency operations and has helped the county manage through the coronavirus crisis on multiple fronts, including a financial crisis, announced Monday that she will retire at the end of this month.
Hamai had been scheduled to retire in March, but postponed her plans to assure continuity of operations given the stark challenges posed by COVID-19.
She said now was the right time to step down.
“This has been a challenging and tumultuous period for our county and its residents, and it has been an honor to help lead our workforce in its unprecedented response to COVID-19. While we still have a long way to travel on our road to recovery, our budgetary and public health situation is beginning to stabilize and I believe the time is right for me to continue with the retirement plans I first announced last October,” Hamai said. “I am confident that our Board of Supervisors, along with our department heads and exceptional workforce, will successfully lead Los Angeles County through recovery and into a healthier, more equitable future.”
To accommodate the need to move quickly during the crisis, Hamai was given broad authority by the Board of Supervisors to procure emergency services and supplies and move forward with other “critical” transactions without a board vote.
Hamai oversaw the development of the county’s $34.9 billion budget for fiscal year 2020-21, which required across-the-board spending cuts and may result in layoffs this fall, depending on federal and state funding levels and the county’s own revenue base.
All five members of the board had nothing but praise for the CEO.
“I want to thank our CEO Sachi Hamai for her unwavering commitment and dedication to Los Angeles County, most recently evidenced by her willingness to postpone her retirement to help us navigate the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. “The Board of Supervisors is fortunate to have had Ms. Hamai at the helm of our CEO operations for the last several years. Her leadership and keen fiscal sense, coupled with her collaborative spirit, have greatly benefited Los Angeles County as a whole, and all of our residents and businesses throughout the region.”
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said it was hard to envision L.A. County without Hamai’s leadership.
“Every county CEO needs to be a political wizard, a genius with money, and a long-distance runner,”Kuehl said. “Sachi gets an A+ in all three, plus being a mentor and a champion for women and people of color in government leadership. I am so grateful for her more than three decades of service, and can’t imagine the county without her.”
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said Hamai, the first Asian American woman to manage the county’s wide-ranging operations, was a role model to many.
“CEO Sachi Hamai has been an exceptional leader in moving Los Angeles County forward. Her budgetary acumen, coupled with her commitment to serving the underserved, has enabled us to invest deeply in some of the most important priorities of our time, including justice reform and the fight to end homelessness, while maintaining the fiscal prudence that has earned the county its highest-ever credit ratings,” he said. “She has been a mentor and role model to a generation of county leaders, including women and people of color, and her legacy as a collaborative, results-oriented CEO will continue to shape the workings of Los Angeles County government well into the future.”
Fesia Davenport, the county’s chief operating officer, has been appointed as acting CEO, a role she was first appointed to on March 10, before Hamai announced she would postpone her retirement. Davenport’s salary was not included in the county statement, but had been set in March at $450,000.
Davenport has been part of Hamai’s executive management team for five years and worked with the county for 21 years. Prior to joining the CEO’s office, she was the chief deputy director for the Department of Children and Family Services. Davenport also previously worked as a lawyer for the District Attorney’s Office.
Hamai said she was proud of what she had been able to accomplish during her more than three decades of public service.
“This week marks my 32nd year of county service. Although the challenges of the current moment are immense, I also reflect proudly on accomplishments during my tenure that have positioned us to meet today’s challenges from a position of fiscal strength — including our strongest-ever credit ratings and substantial investments in our rainy day funds,” Hamai said. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to have served. I will never forget the incredible fellow employees who have partnered with me every step of the way.”