Local Election

Fresno Mayor-elect Brand turns to familiar faces to fill top administration posts

Fresno Mayor-elect Lee Brand, with community leader H. Spees to his immediate left and members of his transition team also present, speaks Wednesday in front of the Leadership Training Institute in downtown Fresno. Spees will be Brand’s director of strategic initiatives.
Fresno Mayor-elect Lee Brand, with community leader H. Spees to his immediate left and members of his transition team also present, speaks Wednesday in front of the Leadership Training Institute in downtown Fresno. Spees will be Brand’s director of strategic initiatives. jellis@fresnobee.com

Fresno Mayor-elect Lee Brand is turning to his campaign consultant and a former competitor to fill two key positions in his new administration.

Tim Orman, a longtime local Republican political consultant, will be Brand’s chief of staff. He’ll be paid $125,000 a year.

Longtime community leader H. Spees, who ran for mayor and finished third in the June primary, will be Brand’s director of strategic initiatives. His salary will be $100,000 a year.

Brand made the announcement Wednesday just before he introduced members of his transition team, a group of 18 people who will offer guidance over the next month as Brand prepares to take over leadership of the state’s fifth-largest city from outgoing Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

Working with Orman over the past year, Brand said, convinced him that Orman was the right person to lead his City Hall team.

“We were a very good team (during the campaign), and obviously successful in the end,” Brand said of his victory over Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea. “Tim knows better than anybody else what my vision for Fresno is. Tim is the right person right now to help me and guide me to achieve that vision for Fresno in a way that I can keep it out of the weeds, I can keep it concise, and most importantly, we can achieve the goals.”

The initial plan is for Orman to work under Brand for a year to get his City Hall operation up and running.

We were a very good team (during the campaign), and obviously successful in the end. Tim knows better than anybody else what my vision for Fresno is.

Fresno Mayor-elect Lee Brand on hiring Tim Orman, his campaign consultant, as his chief of staff

As for Spees, Brand said he was impressed with his ideas when they debated each other ahead of the June primary. After Spees was eliminated from contention in the June primary election, he and Brand talked and found common ground. Not long after the June primary, Spees endorsed Brand.

“This is an important role in the administration,” Brand said of Spees’ job, which will include community outreach and helping Brand push his initiatives, like increased community policing and starting a citizens police advisory board. “He and I since June have developed a very good relationship. He was an active part of the campaign.”

Brand held his news conference after the first meeting of his transition team. The team, Brand said, was assembled to be “a diverse section of Fresno.” They have three more meetings planned in December, when they will help Brand shape his policy initiatives.

Among those on the transition team are: the Rev. DJ Criner, senior pastor at Westside Church of God and a board member of Faith In Community; former City Councilman Blong Xiong; business owner Ruth Evans; former Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Larry Powell; newly elected Fresno Police Officers Association President Damon Kurtz; Rick Steitz, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1027; and Lorraine Salazar, a partner in Sal’s Mexican Restaurants.

“Everybody here is a leader in their own respect,” Brand said.

The next big hurdle for Brand is the future of City Manager Bruce Rudd, who had earlier said he would retire when Swearengin leaves office the first week of January. The city manager is the most important position in a mayoral administration and is the mayor’s conduit to the city bureaucracy.

Brand has asked Rudd to stay on at least six months, if not longer. He hopes to hear Rudd’s decision this week. If Rudd still decides to head out the door along with Swearengin, Brand said he will immediately start a national search for his replacement.

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