Bass names LA28 executive Chris Thompson as chief of staff

Mayor-elect Karen Bass on Tuesday announced one of the pivotal roles in her administration, naming LA28 senior vice president Christopher Thompson as her chief of staff.

Thompson, who will also oversee Bass’ transition, will begin Monday. He is the first major employee announced by the new government.

“My number one priority is to assemble a team that is ready from day one to move our city forward,” Bass said in a press release praising Thompson’s public and private sector experience.

Thompson currently leads government relations for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games Organizing Committee. He began his career in Congress, most recently serving as Chief of Staff to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and spent nearly seven years in various capacities at Edison International and Southern California Edison.

According to the Bass Campaign, he also serves on the boards of the PBS SoCal/Public Media Group of Southern California and the California Science Center Foundation, and previously served on the boards of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

The term of office of the elected mayor begins on December 12th. She previously invited all staff in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office to stay in their jobs until April, according to a letter last week — an unusual move meant to provide stability during a brief transition period.

“The chief of staff is your alter ego. It’s your enforcer and it’s always your bearer of bad news,” said Fernando Guerra, a political science professor who directs the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. “So this person better has a thick skin and the ability to implement the tough decisions that the mayor has to make.”

A City Hall insider who knows Thompson said that because of his work with Feinstein, he is someone with a strong legislative background.

Guerra said he was a little surprised Bass chose a chief of staff who appeared not to have previously worked at City Hall.

“I thought she would have picked someone who knew City Hall inside and out because she hadn’t worked at City Hall before,” Guerra said, though he posited that Bass’ allies on the city council and Thompson’s experience in lobbying for the City Hall both could help ease the transition.

In his role at LA28, Thompson has been a registered town hall lobbyist since November 2021, according to LA Ethics Commission files. He filed documents to end his lobbyist registration on Tuesday.

Thompson’s recent past as a lobbyist for LA28 is likely to raise some hackles, particularly among activist groups opposed to the Olympics.

Rob Quan, a frequent critic of City Hall, said he reserved judgment on Thompson as an employment because he didn’t know enough about him yet.

But Quan — an organizer at Unrig LA, a group that focuses on issues of representative government and money in politics — said Thompson’s close ties to the Los Angeles-area Chamber of Commerce, LA28 and Southern California Edison gave him pause.

“That’s the chief of staff — the chief of staff controls access,” Quan said, raising questions about how that access might affect powerful local interests. “Maybe he’s just a really good manager, that’s important. But he managed a certain world in the town family and that is saying something.”

Bass spokesman Zach Seidl said that Thompson “will not be involved in Olympic matters for the first year of his service.”

A spokesman for LA28 confirmed Thompson’s last day with the organization would be Friday, and the group’s chief executive, Kathy Carter, described Thompson as “an exceptional colleague”.

“The people of this city spoke loud and clear as they delivered Mayor-elect Bass a decisive victory,” Thompson said in a statement Tuesday. “She has laid out a clear vision and plan to address the homelessness crisis and make our city safer and more affordable for all. I look forward to helping her realize this vision.”

Times contributor Dakota Smith contributed to this report.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-11-29/mayor-elect-bass-names-christopher-thompson-as-chief-of-staff Bass names LA28 executive Chris Thompson as chief of staff

Alley Einstein

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