After working 30 years for City Hall, Santa Barbara City Attorney Steve Wiley announced that he’ll be “retiring” soon, at which point he’ll go into private practice. Direct, accessible, and on occasion bristly and pugnacious, Wiley — as city attorney — has been one of the most powerful and influential players at City Hall. Perhaps best known for the relentlessness of his campaign against Santa Barbara landlord Dario Pini — whom Wiley put behind bars 20 years ago for substandard housing — Wiley has had his fingerprints on every major undertaking by City Hall in the past 20 years. Where critics have complained Wiley could be a hard-charging steamroller — certainly the case with opponents of the proposed gang injunction — his City Hall supporters have voiced appreciation at Wiley’s willingness to figure out ways to meet various objectives rather than merely explain how they couldn’t be.
Wiley’s is the second high-profile resignation to be announced in almost as many weeks. Earlier this summer Public Works Director Christine Anderson announced she too was stepping down. Given that many of City Hall’s executive class are about the same age as Wiley — with a comparable number of years under their belts — there’s speculation that more high-level retirements are on the way. Before the recent recession struck seven years ago, city administrators were already giving serious thought to succession planning. Many retirement-eligible department heads stuck out the hard times, said City Administrator Jim Armstrong, in hopes of getting City Hall on more secure economic footing. Rumors have surfaced that Armstrong himself has been contemplating retirement. “That’s not something I’d discuss with you,” he said, laughing. He added, “I wouldn’t expect any announcement in the short term.”