Mayor Anthony A. Williams, citing a lack of coordination and communication among D.C. agencies, restructured his administration yesterday by appointing four deputy mayors to have direct oversight over certain parts of the city government.
In revamping the organizational tree of the District's executive branch, Williams (D) broke apart the oversight duties of the city administrator's office. Now, instead of a city administrator, Williams will have four deputies who he said will be able to take more of a hands-on approach in correcting agency malfunctions.
"The deputy mayor system will enable us to make lasting improvements to service delivery," Williams said. "Rather than have one person responsible for all of the agencies, we have four area-specific experts."
Norman Dong--who had been interim city administrator--was appointed deputy mayor to oversee day-to-day government operations. Erik Christian was chosen as deputy mayor for public safety, overseeing police, fire and medical services, the medical examiner, corrections and the corporation counsel. Carolyn N. Graham was appointed deputy mayor for children, youth and family issues, and Eric Price will be deputy mayor for economic development.
Williams also appointed Robert Rigsby as the District's corporation counsel, and chose Grace M. Lopes to be the mayor's liaison with four D.C. agencies that operate under court-ordered receivership.
Lopes has practiced law in the District since 1981 and most recently served as a special master for the U.S. District Court in the District and in Maryland.
The mayor said that Lopes will work on one of his immediate priorities: to have the city regain control of the child welfare system, public housing, mental health and medical and mental health services at the D.C. jail. The four agencies are in receivership because of past problems; only the housing agency has shown enough improvement under receivership to move toward a return to D.C. government control.
The appointees announced yesterday will be among the highest-paid workers in D.C. government. Lopes will be paid $124,843 a year; Rigsby will make $124,123. Dong and Christian will be paid $118,500, while Price will receive $117,291 annually and Graham $105,963.
Williams said yesterday that he was impressed by the deputy mayor systems in Detroit, Indianapolis, Phoenix and New York. He said Dong would be "the first to say our current system isn't the ideal system."
"As a coach, I don't want a single player having to play quarterback, fullback . . . lineman and cornerback and everything else," Williams said. "I really think we need a team to provide that leadership."
Besides overseeing daily government operations, Dong will be responsible for resolving problems between agencies and providing supervision and support for agency directors.
The mayor stressed that the government's structural change from having a city administrator to four deputy mayors is not a reflection on Dong's work as interim administrator over the past several months. During the early days of Williams's administration last winter, Dong gained some notoriety by whacking another city employee with a clipboard during an argument. Dong has said that the incident was a misunderstanding, and that he could have handled the situation better.
"I can think of no individual who I would trust more than Norman to assume the role of coordinating the activities of the deputy mayors," said Williams, who joked about the incident by turning to Dong and saying, "I see you didn't bring your clipboard."
Williams said appointing deputy mayors to oversee specific areas will help the administration identify problems sooner and correct them.
"My goal is to focus these deputy mayors and speed up the rate of progress in improving the quality of life" for residents, he said.
The concept of a deputy mayor form of government is not new in the District. Former mayor Marion Barry relied on a similar structure with several deputy mayors during his tenure.
Williams said the mark of a successful government is putting a system in place that is successful beyond one administration.
"For too long in this government there has not been an easy mechanism to encourage coordination among agencies," Williams said. "I believe strongly in accountability. . . . This change aligns the structure of the executive branch with my priorities."
CAPTION: Grace M. Lopes, left, has been named liaison to four D.C. agencies operating under court-ordered receivership. Mayor Williams wants Lopes to help regain city control of the agencies.
CAPTION: Mayor Anthony Williams's new deputy mayors are, clockwise from top, Carolyn N. Graham, Eric Price, Erik Christian and Norman Dong. They will have direct oversight over D.C. agencies.