Thursday, February 26, 2015

Costa Mesa Communication Director Bails Out

According to an article in the Daily Pilot posted a few minutes ago, HERE, Costa Mesa's Communication Director, Bill Lobdell, is leaving for a position as Vice President of Communications at The Irvine Company.  This sounds like a great move for Lobdell, a man with many talents - a former editor at the Daily Pilot, the Religion reporter for the Los Angeles Times and author of his acclaimed book, "Losing My Religion - How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America - and Found Unexpected Peace".  It is a terrific book and, in my opinion, not so much about religion, but about a fascinating personal journey, told well.  I'm proud to say I own one of the very first copies of the book, which he inscribed thus: "Geoff, Thanks for reading my story - and for all you do as a citizen journalist.  William Lobdell"  I suspect he has regretted those words from time to time over the past four years, but I know he meant them at the time and I treasure them.

Lobdell began his assignment with the City of Costa Mesa as a public relations consultant in the wake of the St. Patrick's Day debacle of 2011, when more than 200 employees received layoff notices young Huy Pham leaped to his death from the roof of City Hall and then-mayor Gary Monahan decided to stay at his pub in his kilt and pull beer taps rather than attend to what was likely the worst day in the history of the City.   Lobdell subsequently became an employee several months later.

Controversy and turmoil have marked his tenure with the City and he was the point man - the guy holding the nozzle - trying to put out the fires created by the elected leadership.  The St. Patrick's Day situation was just the beginning.  It was followed by so many controversies and law suits that it numbs the mind just trying to recall them all.  Senior staffers across the board left in droves -  retired or resigned or left for other reasons - many seeking relief from the toxic workplace created by the elected leadership.  The relationship was particularly strained between the elected leaders and the Police Department, which saw staffing numbers dwindle to precarious levels and highly-respected police chiefs leave in protest.  And the top two elected leaders sued the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department.  There were times when it seemed like Lobdell was a man juggling an armload of unhappy porcupines while running across a bed of hot coals.  This was his first PR gig and one could certainly observe that it was a real baptism by fire for him. 

Because of his role as the tip of the PR spear on behalf of the city, Lobdell has been the subject of harsh criticism by folks who were angry about the direction it was being taken by the elected leadership.  Of course, it's normal to attack the messenger.  Personally, I think he did as good a job as he could under the circumstances.

Also during his tenure the communication process improved and the City has received awards for Transparency, in great part due to his efforts.  And, the long-overdue upgrading of the audio-visual infrastructure in City Council chambers and in the control room may finally take place - after he leaves - due to his support.

While he and I frequently disagreed on issues and tactics, and he disagreed with the way I reported events during his time with the City, I admire Bill Lobdell for his skills and his tenacity and wish him well in this new, very exciting assignment.  There may be no more prestigious communications job in Orange County than the one he begins next month.  Good luck to him in this new assignment.

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Anonymous It has to be said...

"City has received awards for Transparency, in great part due to his efforts." is this for Steve's little COIN?

The Sunshine Review was a wiki based non-profit website set up in 2008 on the coat tails of the rise of the Tea Party. It was limited in participants and was dissolved in 2013. It was a Wiki-Twitter-Facebook self-promoted award pretending to support real transparency. The participant cities were Tea Party led.

It's like getting an award for showing up. It should be Civic Openess In Taking Up Space.

2/26/2015 02:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Mike McNiff said...

A lengthy recap, almost like the obituaries newspapers write for famous people well in advance. It's almost like you saw it coming.

2/26/2015 02:39:00 PM  

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