Mayor-elect Tom Butt announces staff appointments, among them John Gioia’s chief of staff

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This post by Mayor-elect Tom Butt was originally published on his community e-forum. Others who wish to receive the Mayor-elect’s popular email reports should type “subscribe” in an email to

I am pleased to announce that I have completed my mayor’s staff appointments that include three outstanding individuals with diverse backgrounds who are committed to make Richmond the best it can be.

  • Terrance Cheung, who is currently chief-of-staff for Contra Costa County District 1 Supervisor John Gioia, will become the Mayor’s Office chief-of-staff. Terrance has served Supervisor John Gioia for 14 years, nine of those as chief of staff. Terrance’s prior background is in media, serving as East Bay bureau chief for Bay-TV Channel 35/KRON San Francisco and 580/680 News, Tri-Valley Community Television. Terrance has a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Electronics Communication from San Francisco State. Nobody knows West County and Richmond like Terrance Cheung.
  • David Gray, a New Orleans native and former Richmond City Council intern will serve as Mayor’s Office director of projects and programs. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Tulane University and earned a Master of Public Policy Degree from U.C. Berkeley where he received the Goldman Fellowship for his academic performance. He currently works as the Poverty to Opportunity Coordinator for the Louisiana Budget Project in Baton Rouge. He will be returning to Richmond for his new job.
  • Joseph “Alex” Knox, a Richmond native who served as the campaign coordinator for the Tom Butt for Mayor 2014 Campaign, will become the Mayor’s Office director of community relations. Alex earned a BA in Political Science form Guilford College in North Carolina and is tri-lingual in English, German and Spanish. He worked in a Congressional Internship for Representative George Miller while in school  and has worked recently in both the construction industry and as a community organizer. He is a passionate advocate within Richmond’s community of nonprofits and has committed his efforts to building networks and support for community organizations.
  • Kibibi Culbertson, on Mayor McLaughlin’s staff, has agreed to stay over for a month or so to provide continuity for the transition.

What Does the Richmond Mayor’s Office Do?

Many larger cities in the United States, such as San Francisco and Oakland, have what is known as a strong mayor form of mayor-council government, in which the mayor is the administrator of the city with full executive authority.

Most smaller cities in California are “general law” cities that operate under a state law template for a council-manager form of government that includes five councilmembers that legislate and a city manager that administers. A mayor may be separately elected by the voters or selected by the city council from among its members. Mayor of a general law city is essentially a ceremonial position that includes presiding over city council meetings.  Most general law cities rotate the mayor annually among members.

The Richmond Mayor

Charter cities, like Richmond, have a lot of flexibility, and Richmond’s government has evolved as a council-manager from of government with an elected mayor. As in general law cities, Richmond’s mayor is a non-executive position, but the Charter adds the following:

  • (a) Political Position. The Mayor shall be the chief elected officer and ceremonial head of the City, responsible for providing civic leadership and taking issues to the people, and marshalling public interest and support for municipal activity. The Mayor shall be concerned with the general development of the community and the general level of City services and activity programs and may develop and inform City residents of policies and programs which he or she believes are necessary for the welfare of the City.
  • (b) Policy, Program and Budget. The Mayor may make recommendations to the City Council on matters of policy and program which require Council decision and may propose ordinances and resolutions for Council consideration. The Mayor shall work with the City Manager in preparing an annual budget for submission to the City Council. The Mayor shall make an annual report to the City Council as to the conditions and affairs of the City.
  • Sec. 2. Powers and Duties of the Mayor. The Mayor shall be a member of the City Council and shall have all of the powers and duties of a member of the Council unless otherwise specified herein. In addition, the Mayor shall have the following powers and duties:
  • Appointments and Removals. The Mayor shall have the authority at any regularly scheduled meeting of the City Council to make appointments to or removals from all City boards, commissions and committees with the concurrence of at least three (3) other members of the City Council.
  • The Mayor shall be a voting member of and preside over meetings of the City Council. The Mayor shall annually appoint standing committees of the City Council; provided that the Mayor shall not be a member of such committees

Perhaps contrary to popular opinion, the mayor of Richmond is neither ayatollah nor czar. The mayor doesn’t run the City; the city manager does.

The Mayor as a Leader

As the Charter states, “The Mayor shall be the chief elected officer and ceremonial head of the City, responsible for providing civic leadership and taking issues to the people, and marshalling public interest and support for municipal activity.”

Leadership has been described as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” For example, some understand a leader simply as somebody whom people follow, or as somebody who guides or directs others  while others define leadership as “organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.” The mayor’s leadership role is one that seeks to embody a refined understanding that influence is earned by long-term commitments to public service, responsible decision making and demonstrated integrity. The ability to lead in elected office goes beyond our structures of authority. It is a process of cultivating trust among leaders and stakeholders so that everyone is enabled to contribute to society and engage in the democratic process.

Mayor’s Office Programs and Projects

Following is an in-progress list of potential programs and projects that the Mayor’s Office will pursue. Feel free to suggest others.

Business and Economic Development

  • Prepare for future development of Point Molate.
  • Participate in advocacy and planning for the Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay.
  • Facilitate implementation for Richmond Ferry Service.
  • Facilitate transition of the Hilltop Mall site to an economically successful mixed use retail and residential site.
  • Implement a “Business Roundtable” with representatives from the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, Council of Industries, Main Street Initiative, Board of Realtors and other business organizations to pursue opportunities and remove impediments for business.
  • Complete transition of Richmond’s Zoning Ordinance for consistency with the General Plan 2030.
  • Complete and implement a branding and marketing plan for Richmond.
  • Find ways for Richmond to effectively participate in the Bay Area economic boom.
  • Look for ways to streamline Richmond City Council organization and meetings and make the Richmond City Council a model of legislative decorum, civic engagement, effectiveness and transparency.

Environment and Sustainability

  • Complete Richmond’s Climate Action Plan.
  • Complete the Bay Trail crossing of I-580 at the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and across the bridge itself.
  • Implement an awards program for urban agriculture similar to the Historic Preservation Awards Program.
  • Begin to plan for utilization of funding for sustainability projects included in the Chevron Modernization Project Environmental and Community Investment Agreement.
  • Prioritize the recognition and identity of neighborhoods for unique characteristics, building neighborhood pride using signage, school-community neighborhood centers and neighborhood commercial clusters to attract residents and businesses and provide hyper-local self-sufficiency and resiliency.
  • Using “Health in Every Policy,” reduce environmental causes of chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes.

Equity and Quality of Life

  • Complete the transition of Hacienda residents to Section 8 housing.
  • Pursue the annexation of North Richmond as a means of providing better integrated public services to the area and creating “One Richmond.”
  • Pursue housing opportunities for all income groups, but particularly those needing low income housing.
  • Facilitate a one-stop Internet portal providing information for all local activities available for young people.
  • Continue to update the Industrial Safety Ordinance to reflect best practices and advocate for regulation of rail transport of volatile petroleum products to and through Richmond.
  • Pursue a functional, fair, sustainable and equitable solution for the health care gap that would be left by the closing of Doctors Medical Center.
  • Pursue the annexation of North Richmond as a means of providing better integrated public services to the area and creating “One Richmond.”
  • Ensure fair economic and social participation for Richmond’s immigrant communities.
  • Expand railroad horn quiet zones to include every grade crossing in Richmond.
  • Raise the profile of City of Richmond collaboration with WCCUSD related to shared facilities, use of bond program funds and the Richmond Promise program. Consider appointing an Education Standing Committee of the City Council.