For the first time in 15 years, the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors will have a new director.
Santos Kreimann was named acting director when Stan Wisniewski retired last month after more than a decade at the helm of the department that oversees Marina del Rey.
During an interview in his new office at the Department of Beaches and Harbors recently, Kreimann indicated that the perspective of the office had not significantly changed since Wisniewski retired last month.
“I believe that one of the things that we need to do, first and foremost, is to communicate more effectively with the residents of the county, including those in Marina del Rey,” said the interim director. “That also includes communicating more effectively with the boating community, our lessees and elected officials.
“Fostering those relationships is going to be tantamount in the first few months of this new administration.”
David Levine, the president of the Marina Lessees Association, said his organization is ready to work with Kreimann during this important time of transition in Marina del Rey.
“Any change in leadership of an organization presents opportunities for reflection and consideration of new priorities,” Levine told The Argonaut. “The lessees look forward to working with a new director, staff of Beaches and Harbors and other county departments, as well as other commissions and constituencies within the Marina del Rey community, to encourage all to take a fresh look at the vision and strategy for the much-needed revitalization and redevelopment of the Marina.”
Kreimann ascends to the top spot from the position of deputy director at the Department of Beaches and Harbors after previously serving as the administrative deputy at the department for two and a half years. He was a planning commissioner in Pico Rivera and previously worked in the county treasurer and tax collector section of public finance.
Those experiences may come in handy as he takes over the responsibility of overseeing the rejuvenation of Marina del Rey, which some feel is long overdue.
“The Marina needs to be revitalized. Its buildings are dated, and we need to revitalize this community,” Kreimann said.
Visitor-serving uses, such as restaurants and hotels, will be the number one priority in the redevelopment plan, he said.
During his first two weeks as acting director, Kreimann has concentrated on the internal workings of his staff.
“I want to make sure that our employees are doing well and that they are aware that there has been a change and that I can answer any questions that they may have,” he explained. “I want to make sure that they understand that there will be some changes internally, not in the immediate future, but definitely as we review all of the programs that we provide, I will be making some suggestions and perhaps some consolidations of programs.”
Kreimann said that it was a little early to pinpoint what changes might be made, but he mentioned that he had an important asset in his favor as he takes over the reins from Wisniewski, a longtime county employee.
“I have the benefit of having a very strong management staff that is very knowledgeable, very experienced and very seasoned,” Kreimann said. “They understand their programs very well, and I want to make sure that the administration and programs of the department continue to move forward.”
Dusty Crane, a Beaches and Harbors spokeswoman, feels that she and other county employees can assist in the transition by ascertaining the direction their new boss would like to go.
“We have to know what Santos’s directions are and work with him on how each of the divisions can support those choices and help him manifest them so that we can have a strong department,” she said. “I think that’s really critical when you have a small department. You need to be all moving in the same direction.”
Bridging the communications gap could take some time, due to the animosity that some boat owners feel towards the Department of Beaches and Harbors. Kreimann, who was Wisniewski’s deputy for almost a year, realizes that restoring that trust will not be easy.
“We’re trying to convince the small boat owners that we want to provide equal access for all boaters, and that’s going to be a hard sell,” he acknowledged. “The boating community is very important to us.
“That said, Marina del Rey is not just a small boating community. We have to make sure that we are providing equal access to the entire boating community.”
The animosity stems from the recent increases that boat owners have seen in their slip rates. Some have exceeded the 50 percent mark, and that has created a climate of dissension between the county and the boat owners.
“I don’t expect to see any significant changes for boat owners at this level,” said Andy Bessette, president of the Marina Boaters Association, when asked if he thought the change in administration at Beaches and Harbors would help dissipate the current tension. “All of the real decisions are not made at this level, they’re made downtown [with the Board of Supervisors].”
Jon Nahhas, who has been pressuring the county to reevaluate its slip fee policy, was not optimistic about Kreimann’s appointment.
“It seems that Mr. Kreimann is going to continue to focus on one of the county’s two responsibilities — maximizing county revenue over the protection of its citizens and upholding justice in Marina del Rey,” Nahhas asserted.
Development in Marina del Rey is perhaps one of the largest and most important endeavors that Kreimann will face as the head of Beaches and Harbors.
“It’s going to be a partnership, working with the lessees and the residents,” he said. “We need to make sure that all the pieces are going in the right direction.”
Kreimann realizes that not all parties will have the same ideas at times, but he reiterated that having good, transparent communication would be crucial to creating the best possible development environment.
“We may not agree on everything, and I’m sure there will be criticism about many of the decisions that I make, but one of the criticisms won’t be that people were not informed,” he said. “[The process] will be transparent and interactive.”
Kreimann said that he learned a lot from Wisniewski, his former boss.
“He was a tough negotiator and was absolutely brilliant regarding financial management,” the acting director recalled. “Stan always had the best interests of the county and the residents in mind.”
Kreimann says he feels that public service is “a calling, and while it’s not for everyone, I really enjoy it.
“There are a number of challenges that we will be facing at Beaches and Harbors, but I’m looking forward to it.”