- The Washington Times - Friday, September 1, 2000

District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday announced that John Koskinen, former point man for the federal government's year-2000 preparations, is the new deputy mayor for operations and city administrator.

"We figure if he could lead the country into the 21st century, surely he's up to the task of leading our government out of the 1950s," Mr. Williams said during a news conference.

"He has a long-standing track record in the public sector, complemented by a 21-year history of restructuring large, troubled operating companies in the private sector," Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Koskinen replaces Norman S. Dong, who said he resigned yesterday for "personal reasons" and intends to spend more time with his wife.

Mr. Williams told his Cabinet the three remaining deputy mayors Carolyn Graham, deputy mayor for children, youth and families; Eric Price, deputy mayor for economic development; and Erik Christian, deputy mayor for public safety will report directly to himself and the new city administrator.

During the news conference, Mr. Koskinen said he expects the D.C. government to be run more effectively within two years.

"I've spent a lot of my life getting organizations working effectively together," Mr. Koskinen said. "I don't think it's a question of yelling at people to make them work harder."

Mr. Koskinen served as chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, beginning in February 1998. He is a resident of Ward 4 and has lived in the city for more than 30 years.

"I probably have spent a lot of time dodging potholes like everyone else," he said. "I've suffered like everyone else through various difficulties."

His immediate plans for when he starts work Sept. 11 are to do an agency-by-agency tour and to identify several goals for each department head.

"I think that one of our goals should be that employees should be proud to be city employees," Mr. Koskinen said.

Mr. Koskinen worked from 1994 to 1997 as deputy director for management at the federal Office of Management and Budget, where he oversaw management issues, including procurement and financial management practices.

Mr. Koskinen said he intends to follow the playbook developed by Mr. Williams and Mr. Dong with the citywide strategic plan. Although lots of activity is underway, there needs to be more organization in providing services to D.C. residents, Mr. Koskinen said.

Mr. Koskinen, 61, will bring an elder statesman status to the administration, replacing Mr. Dong, 35, who was a leader in the mayor's young guard.

Mr. Dong served in many capacities during nearly five years in D.C. government, including as chief of staff when Mr. Williams was chief financial officer, and deputy chief of staff for management, before taking over as interim city administrator.

The mayor assigned the task of seeing that action plans become a reality to Mr. Dong, a former federal housing official who helped overhaul slipshod tax collections when Mr. Williams was the city's chief financial officer.

"We've periodically hit a few bumps in the road, or maybe potholes," Mr. Williams said. "We're still striving to make the District of Columbia a world-class city."

Mr. Williams credited Mr. Dong for leading the city through the year-2000 changeover, improving service at the Department of Motor Vehicles and streamlining the government.

"Norman did some heavy lifting in building the team that is delivering our first long-term reform initiatives in the government," the mayor said.

But Mr. Dong drew negative attention to the nascent Williams administration early last year when he smacked a fellow city worker with a clipboard during an argument. The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to prosecute the case.

Mr. Dong said he has been discussing his departure with the mayor for more than a year. He decided early this summer that reducing the city government by 1,000 employees would be his final project.

The mayor's office submitted a $52 million streamlining plan to Chief Financial Officer Natwhar M. Gandhi on Aug. 18.

"Working in this government, you get professional experience in dog years," Mr. Dong said yesterday, expressing gratitude to Mr. Williams. "There's still miles and miles of work to be done.

"[But] I've had a ball … it's not about government being bad."

"It's important to get a different perspective," said Mr. Dong, adding that he will take a sabbatical to travel in Europe with his wife. "This is the last chance we have to do something really different."

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