OAKLAND -- As she packed up her office Tuesday, Deanna Santana said she was surprised by her sudden departure as Oakland's top administrator and wouldn't rule out taking a job in Dallas where she recently lost her bid to become city manager.

Santana, who will receive a six-figure severance payout, also warned that Oakland's finances are eroding. She pointed to a recent joint report with Mayor Jean Quan showing that despite revenue gains, the city was forecasting a nearly $28 million shortfall in 2015.

On Monday, Quan announced that she was replacing Santana as city administrator with Santana's top deputy, Fred Blackwell. Blackwell was officially sworn into the post Tuesday afternoon.

Deanna Santana (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group file)
Deanna Santana (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group file)

The shake-up was not unexpected especially given that Santana had publicly been seeking a new job outside Oakland since December. But the timing of the move caught even Santana by surprise.

Santana said she and Quan had reached an agreement for her to step aside, but that she was led to believe there would be a four-to-six week transition period. While Santana said she didn't know what prompted Quan to accelerate the transition, she supported the mayor's desire to make the change.

"I respect that the mayor wants to stabilize the organization," Santana said in a phone interview. "And I think that is a wise call."


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Quan could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Sources close to the mayor said she had planned to announce the transition later this week but changed her mind after news broke that Santana had confirmed her impending exit.

Santana had run Oakland's 4,000 member workforce since 2011 winning accolades for her decisiveness and budget planning, while finding herself at odds with several on the political left, including one of the city's most powerful employee unions, SEIU Local 1021.

Santana said she decided to look elsewhere for work because she didn't want to get embroiled in what will likely be a bruising re-election bid for Quan.

She also played down talk that she and the mayor were frequently at odds. "I admire the mayor for being a strong-willed outspoken woman," Santana said. "I think she respects me for the same reasons."

Because she did not resign, Santana is in line for a lucrative severance payout. Her contract allows her six months severance pay, which amounts to about $135,000 as well as the ability to cash out unused leave. City officials said they had not yet calculated the exact payout.

As for her future, Santana wouldn't dispel talk that she could be heading to Dallas to become a deputy city manager. "I've met with the city manager (there)," she said. "I like the city manager. Any further comment I think would be a little premature."

Santana praised Blackwell as "brilliant" and lauded city workers, several of whom paid her a visit on her last day in the office.

"I wish the best for Oakland," she said. "And I'm just a phone call away."

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435