Team Avedisian is changing.
Two key members of the administration, Ken Mallette and Oscar Shelton, retired last week. Others, including Police Chief Stephen McCartney, Fire Chief Edmund Armstrong and Finance Director Ernest Zmyslinski are at retirement age. It doesn’t stop there. Chief of staff Mark Carruolo has sufficient city service to retire, as does acting public works director David Picozzi.
Wholesale retirements would leave the mayor with building another A-team. Or, as some have speculated, a number of key retirements could signal Avedisian’s decision not to seek re-election. If that’s the case, Avedisian hasn’t shared that decision with one of his closest confidants, Carruolo.
Avedisian is usually coy when asked about his political plans and, in a recent appearance on Channel 12 “Newsmakers,” he said he could be a candidate for Lieutenant Governor. When asked if that would be the case, he didn’t deny or confirm.
Carruolo said Friday the administration is faced with a “brain drain,” and the task now is to establish a hierarchy for succession.
Mallette, with 27 years of city service, filled the posts of tax collector and tax assessor. Avedisian isn’t looking for a single person to fill the two jobs. Evelyn Spagnolo has been named interim assessor and, in addition to his role at treasurer, David Olsen is filling the role of tax collector. Jane Jordan, who has 31 years of city service, is interim personnel director. Shelton also filled the role of management information services director, a job Carruolo is taking on in addition to his other work for the moment.
“Jane [Jordan] has a lot of institutional knowledge,” said Carruolo. Nonetheless, he also sees that she could retire soon. Carruolo talks about the need to prepare for these changes with the training of personnel.
“I can’t wait, but I’m not planning on it anytime soon,” Picozzi said when asked Friday if he could be the next.
Picozzi admits enjoying challenges of his job, such as the engineering-intense replacement of the Sea View Drive culvert bridge in Oakland Beach, which crews are in the process of completing, and the Orchard Road Bridge that was replaced some years ago. Under his direction, crews renovated McDermott Pool this summer and will take on rebuilding fields at Mickey Stevens Sports Complex.
“At least, when I do leave, there won’t be much [left] to be done,” Picozzi jokes.
In a recent interview, Zmyslinski likewise pointed to the administration’s brain drain. With 14 years of city service, Zmyslinski is considered the first city finance director, or one of very few, to qualify for retirement. Prior directors left before putting in sufficient time. He didn’t share any plans to retire.
Mallette views his and Sheldon’s retirements as an opportunity for the administration to look at new opportunities.
He agreed the city is losing institutional knowledge, but he added, “Someone coming in doesn’t have blinders on. There’s a fresh set of eyes.”
Mallette said new directors could offer “a different knowledge set” and experiences from the private sector.
Mallette said it will be different for Avedisian, yet on the other hand; the opportunity to build a new team doesn’t happen that frequently.
He also felt transition should not be difficult. He said he will always be available to assist and he believes others, should they decide to retire soon, would do the same.