After nearly four decades as a Los Angeles County employee and almost 15 years of heading the county agency that manages Marina del Rey, Department of Beaches and Harbors director Stan Wisniewski announced his retirement on Thursday, March 27th.
Wisniewski let his employees and colleagues know that he was leaving the department that he had called home for so long in an e-mail last month. Although earlier reports stated that he would remain with the department for an additional two weeks as a volunteer, employees at Beaches and Harbors said that Wisniewski was no longer with the agency.
During his tenure at Beaches and Harbors, the asset management strategy and the county lease extension policy were developed and implemented.
“These were the guidelines for lease negotiations in Marina del Rey, which were very critical for us,” said Kerry Silverstrom, Wisniewski’s chief deputy at the Department of Beaches and Harbors.
While attending the University of Southern California, Wisniewski began his career as a county employee as a parking lot attendant for what was then the Department of Beaches and later rose through the ranks to several management positions. He was named as the director of what had become the Department of Beaches and Harbors in 1993.
“Stan served the county for many years and decided that now was the best time to retire,” said David Sommers, press deputy for Supervisor Don Knabe, whose Fourth District includes Marina del Rey. “Supervisor Knabe wishes him well in his retirement.”
Santos Kreimann has been appointed interim director of the department. He has been deputy director at the department for nine months and previously served as the administrative deputy at the Department of Beaches and Harbors for two and a half years.
Silverstrom, who has been with the agency for approximately 14 years, has fond memories of working with Wisniewski.
“Stan has been a dedicated, passionate and committed county public servant for almost 40 years,” Silverstrom recalled. “We have been so blessed to have him here at a time when the Marina is undergoing such vast revitalization.”
Kreimann and Silverstrom both admired Wisniewski for his ability to listen to others and accept ideas from his deputies and other employees.
“He always had the best interests of the county and the residents in mind,” said Kreimann.
“He was one of the finest professionals that I have known,” Silverstrom added. “He was always willing to learn and to grow, which I think is a very admirable quality.”
Organizations in and around Marina del Rey that worked with Wisniewski remembered him as someone they enjoyed working with and who was an asset to the county.
“The Marina del Rey Lessees Association wishes Stan Wisniewski well in his retirement and future endeavors,” David O. Levine, president of the association, told The Argonaut. “Over more than three decades of service, we have always appreciated his personal dedication to the Marina.”
One area Kreimann would like to improve is the communication between the various constituencies in Marina del Rey.
“I would like to see that happen with our lessees, our residents and our department,” said the interim director. “That is an area that I think is very important for us to work on.”
While many had nothing but praise and admiration for Wisniewski, others, particularly residents who oppose the way that development is proceeding in the Marina, were not as kind.
Nancy Marino, a member of WE ARE Marina del Rey, an organization that was formed in protest of what many feel is overdevelopment in Marina del Rey, was curious about the timing of his departure.
“Why is he retiring at this point?” asked Marino, who clashed with Wisniewski over how development was affecting the Marina. “It seems like an odd time to step down.”
Marino and some other activists clashed with Wisniewski over the asset management strategy, a policy the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors decided to put into place.
Activists have called for the development of a Marina del Rey master plan and have accused county officials of piecemealing projects.
Also, dozens of small boat owners locked horns with Wisniewski over the steady rise in slip fees for boat docks at the harbors and accused him of undermining their efforts at what they believe is a fairer pricing policy for recreational boaters.
“In his tenure, he has helped create the worst boating atmosphere of all the harbors in Southern California,” alleged Jon Nahhas, the leader of the disgruntled boat owners. “He was instrumental in fending off our slip fees being investigated — quick to downplay [Small Craft Harbor] Commissioner Al] Landini’s request for an independent study.”
The Board of Supervisors is the body that determines the slip fee policy for the county.
Levine said the Lessees Association is ready to work with Kreimann as he begins his new job of helping to manage the county’s assets in Marina del Rey.
“Any change in leadership of an organization presents opportunities for reflection and consideration of new priorities,” said Levine. “The lessees look forward to working with a new director, staffs of Beaches and Harbors and other county depart- ments, 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.”
A large part of the director’s job will be financial management and Kreimann, who previously worked in the county’s treasurer and tax collection section of public finance, hopes to replicate what he feels were some of Wisniewski’s best qualities.
“He was a tough negotiator and he was absolutely brilliant regarding financial management,” Kreimann said.
“With Stan, I felt more like a partner instead of a subordinate,” said Silverstrom. “I will personally miss him very much.”