GPD chief gets support as next city manager

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Ed Medrano, GPD Chief of Police
Mitch Lansdell, Gardena City Manager

Edward Medrano offered top city

job in 3-2 council vote April 26

 

In late April, city officials offered Gardena police Chief Edward Medrano the position of Gardena’s top administrator when City Manager Mitch Lansdell retires later this year. Mayor Paul Tanaka cast the tie-breaking vote (3-2) in Medrano’s favor.

The vote to replace Lansdell with Medrano took place at the April 26 Gardena City Council meeting.

Edward Medrano offered top city

job in 3-2 council vote April 26

 

In late April, city officials offered Gardena police Chief Edward Medrano the position of Gardena’s top administrator when City Manager Mitch Lansdell retires later this year. Mayor Paul Tanaka cast the tie-breaking vote (3-2) in Medrano’s favor.

The vote to replace Lansdell with Medrano took place at the April 26 Gardena City Council meeting.

Mayor Pro Tem Mark Henderson and Councilman Terrence Terauchi were the dissenting voters.

Henderson told the Daily Breeze via email, that while he supports Medrano, he favors a competitive selection process.

“An objective selection process should always occur,” Henderson said.

Medrano was said to be considering the offer.

Councilwoman Tasha Cerda told the Breeze that she backed Medrano as the next City leader and one reason was his progressive thinking.

“We’re seeing more developments than ever,” Cerda said. “Ed is very forward-thinking, and that’s what I want to see in a city manager.”

Rising through the Gardena Police Department ranks beginning as a police cadet at age 18, Medrano was appointed chief of police in 2007. He replaced the retired Rodney Lyons.

Medrano wasted little time in implementing new technology to the GPD crime-fighting base.

He researched camera systems in such major cities as Baltimore and Chicago, and learned that some technologies could be effective in day-to-day police operation.

In 2008, Medrano planned the South Bay’s first citywide surveillance camera program. He secured about $500,000 in grant money and lobbied for $1.1 million in city funding for the program. Medrano then strategized bringing the best single system to Gardena.

Divided into phases, about 100 surveillance cameras were placed throughout the City, with more clustered in notorious high-crime areas. These cameras send real-time feeds back to the Gardena Police Department, where officers can study the video for suspicious activities, as well as to record images of suspects and vehicle license plates. Video is retained for 10 days.

In 2009, with the City operating under budget cutbacks, Medrano took on the added role of managing the Community Development Department. When the Public Works Department director retired a few years later, Medrano also took charge of that department.

Many say that Medrano or any hire will have big shoes to fill as Gardena’s city manager.

Lansdell has worked for the city for 31 years, starting as an assistant city manager in 1985, and then was promoted to city manager in 1997. During his career, Lansdell had seen the worst of times and the best.

Gardena was enjoying a prosperous period in the 198os, but then as the economy tightened in the 1990s, city officials tapped into a $12 million reserve.

Established city leaders devised a plan to launch two programs: the Municipal Mutual Insurance Co., of which $10 million was borrowed; and the First-Time Homebuyer Program, which assisted new home buyers with their down payments. But as the economy took a bump — the MMIC found no other cities interested in buying a liability insurance policy. So, to salvage a teetering program, officials abandoned the municipal insurance business in favor of the workers compensation market; likewise, Gardena’s first-time home buyers (33 of 73 in the program) saw their homes go into foreclosure when the real estate market crashed — signaling the death of both programs.

In 1997-1998, the once prosperous Gardena had hit rock bottom. The general fund had accrued an additional $6.2 million in debt, and totaling more than $26 million.

At this time, City Manager Ken Landau was found to be misappropriating city funds and was fired. Later, Landau pleaded no contest to two felony counts of misusing funds of more than $100,000 for personal use — including the hiring of a private investigator to follow the activities of the City’s then treasurer, Lorenzo Ybarra.

Lansdell worked to resolve Gardena’s financial mess by trimming nearly $3 million out of the adopted budget for 1998, and issued a hiring freeze to avoid layoffs, while capital projects were drastically reduced.

In 1999, Lansdell received valuable assistance from the newly-elected councilman Paul Tanaka. Tanaka, a member of the Los Angeles County Sheriffs, was also a CPA, and served on the City’s finance committee.

First, Lansdell negotiated for the two banks of which Gardena owed $26-plus millions, to allow the City to pay interest only for five years.

Simultaneously, Lansdell kept the City running and providing only the most necessary community services.

“I think whatever they could keep close to the cuff they did, so when Mitch took over, he had to expose everything that was going on — all of the problems that people were not paying attention to,” Medrano said in a 2007 interview. “But we were always informed, and he didn’t pull any punches. He didn’t say, ‘Things are going to be great, just hang tight.’ He told us it was going to be difficult. But we have a plan.”

By March 2006, Lansdell and Tanaka negotiated a debt repayment schedule that allowed the city to avoid bankruptcy in the face of the crushing $26 million debt.

As part of the renegotiation terms with the banks, Lansdell and Tanaka had to convince Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s to reestablish the city’s rating, and apply for new bonds to pay back Sumitomo and Union banks the full principle at 85 cents on the dollar.

Tanaka convinced the financial institutions that Gardena was financially stable, and that Lansdell was a first-rate city leader. Lansdell presented a repayment plan comparable to a home loan with a fixed interest rate.

This debt-restructuring plan enabled Gardena to be financially solvent in the years to follow. Lansdell then began the rebuilding of city staff and increasing capital projects. The Gardena Police Department, which was reduced to 65 officers in early 2000, saw its numbers increase to 100 during the rebuilding period.

City staff nominated Lansdell for honors and in 2007, he was named the nation’s Municipal Leader of the Year.

Today, the City enjoys a balanced budget and $13 million-plus in reserves.

Lansdell’s contract expires at year’s end.

He said that Medrano is his logical successor.

“I have worked with Chief Medrano for over 27 years,” Lansdell told the Breeze. “In 2013, my assistant left and (Medrano) has virtually been doing that role (overseeing). He has some contact with over 75 percent of the general-fund budget.

“I’m pretty sure there’s no police department in the South Bay that has as much community support as ours. And who’s more visible in the community than the police chief? Public safety is the No. 1 issue.”