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Villaraigosa names advisor to Beutner as new chief of staff

July 8, 2011 |  1:22 pm

Photo: Austin Beutner. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has chosen Gaye Williams, a friend and advisor to likely mayoral candidate Austin Beutner, to lead his administration, sources familiar with the situation said Friday.

Williams, 54, of Manhattan Beach, is expected to fill the post later this month, replacing chief of staff Jeff Carr, who abruptly announced his departure on Wednesday.

The selection of Williams creates an unusual dynamic in the run-up to the March 2013 mayoral election. Williams, a Republican, spent just more than a year as a $120,000-a-year aide to Beutner when he served as Villaraigosa's jobs czar. Since she resigned in May, she has been volunteering with Beutner’s exploratory campaign, serving as a sounding board and providing strategic advice.

Meanwhile, the two top Villaraigosa deputies who will report directly to Williams are Matt Szabo and Janelle Erickson, both of whom have ties to City Controller Wendy Greuel, another likely mayoral contender in 2013.

Erickson and Szabo worked for Greuel when she was on the City Council. Erickson could not be reached for comment. But Szabo said earlier this week that he is not interested in working for any mayoral campaign and plans to continue in Villaraigosa’s office.

Williams will take her post at a critical time for Villaraigosa, who has less than two years left in his term and is looking to make his mark on such matters as public transportation, by securing more funds for his subway to Westwood, and public schools. At the same time, however, City Hall has been jolted by a series of investigations.

The FBI has been waging a probe into bribe-taking at the Department of Building and Safety, arresting two inspectors and looking into a dozen others. Federal officials are also investigating allegations of overbilling at the housing department, where an affordable housing developer has been accused of defrauding the government of tens of millions of dollars.

The mayor also has scrambled to address problems at the Department of Transportation, sending his top transit aide to run that agency. And officials in the animal services department are trying to determine whether city employees stole dogs from shelters and sold them for a profit.  

Williams has also served in other posts at City Hall. Before she worked for Beutner, she was an aide to former Mayor Richard Riordan from 1997 to 2001 and an adviser to former City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo from 2001 to 2005.

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Austin Beutner. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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