Rumors bubbled up last week on the inter webs about the Coliseum JPA potentially filling its vacant Executive Director position. BANG has reported further on it, lending the story credence. The leading (only?) candidate is Guy Houston, a Republican lobbyist who spent 6 years in the Assembly. Prior to that he was the mayor of Dublin.
Deena McClain has been the Authority’s Interim Executive Director for some time, also serving as legal counsel. During the lease discussions over the summer, you may remember that she was the point person for any and all questions about the current lease terms, outstanding debt, and operations of the Coliseum complex. McClain, in concert with outside counsel, negotiated the A’s lease on the JPA’s side. That would be Houston’s role should he take the job.
Should the Raiders elect to stay in Oakland for however many additional years, Houston’s first task would be to negotiate that lease extension. Beyond that, he’d have to lead talks for the future of the complex, whether it’s Coliseum City or a successor plan. The position has been vacant for so long that it’s easy to forget its importance. Take a look this excerpt from the still-relevant-albeit-outdated job description:
The ideal candidate will:
- Be a strong and visible leader;
- Have very strong analytical and problem solving skills;
- Be able to evaluate, analyze and interpret complex financial statements and reports;
- Be able to develop, present and defend financial reports/profit loss statements;
- Have excellent communication abilities both orally and in written form;
- Be able to draft, interpret, negotiate and apply complex contract language;
- Have strong facilitation and mediation skills;
- Be a consensus builder;
- Understand the political process and public meeting dynamics and requirements;
- Identify and present the best business decisions and practices in a political environment;
- Understand sports franchise businesses and the dynamics of their operation;
- Understand comparable stadium/arena/entertainment facility operations;
- Will know or be able to learn the market and the best practices;
- Be able to build and maintain a good organizational public image;
- Develop and maintain positive media relations.
Before any of you start emailing your resumes, there are also some specific requirements for the job:
- A degree in business administration, public administration, economics, or another closely related field. An advanced degree is desirable.
- Experience managing a similar revenue generating enterprise owned by a public entity or managing a facility comparable to the Coliseum Complex.
- Experience demonstrating successful application of the abilities and traits of “The Ideal Candidate”.
If you’re still in college, or you work some midlevel position in the private sector, you need not apply.
Having served in the public sphere for well over a decade, Houston’s certainly qualified. The real questions are about his station within the JPA and his designs on the job. Houston was termed out of his Assembly District 15 job in 2008. He then ran for Contra Costa County Supervisor and lost, then went for the GOP chair job and lost. Since then he’s been a lobbyist, continuing to work out of Dublin. If he wanted to get back into elected office at some point, successfully negotiating new deals as the JPA’s Executive Director would be an excellent feather in his cap, though it’s unclear what elected offices he could capably shoot for as a Republican in Alameda County.
Houston’s reputation is very pro-business, developer-friendly. In the mid-2000’s he was caught up in a scandal involving his father, Fred Houston, who was accused defrauding senior citizens to the tune of $340,000. Fred Houston was also the longtime head coach of San Ramon Valley High’s football program. Zennie Abraham noted Guy Houston’s close ties to Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who is also known as very pro-business.
The Executive Director serves at the behest of the JPA Board of Commissioners, so it’s not as if he/she can create an agenda and start dictating terms. However, the ED could certainly steer negotiations one way or another, based on ongoing evaluations of potential deals. As divided as the JPA has shown itself to be over the future of the Coliseum, it’ll be more important than anything for the ED to build consensus. Should Houston get the job, it’ll be no small feat if he gets everyone rowing in one direction.