Long Beach city officials announced the resignation of City Manager...

Long Beach city officials announced the resignation of City Manager Donna Gayden Tuesday night. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Long Beach officials on Tuesday night announced the resignation of City Manager Donna Gayden, saying both sides “mutually agreed to end her employment.” In her place, the City Council appointed Police Commissioner Ronald Walsh as acting city manager.

There was no prior notice of Gayden’s departure, which was added to the council agenda at the start of the meeting.

The council unanimously voted to end the final year of Gayden’s contract, which pays her a $203,000 annual salary. Long Beach officials said Gayden agreed to forgo payouts for unused vacation and sick pay in exchange for six months of health benefits. She will also receive six months’ salary as part of her separation agreement.

Walsh will take over starting Wednesday. Officials did not say whether he would receive any additional salary in his dual role as police commissioner, but an additional salary would require approval by the City Council.

“The work is never done,” Gayden said in a statement released by the city Tuesday night, “but I truly believe that I have achieved everything I was brought here to do.” 

City Corporation Counsel Rich Berrios said the council members and Gayden reached an agreement to end her contract early. Neither the city nor Gayden said what led to her resignation. 

“Over her tenure, the city council and the city manager have discussed the organizational and operational structure and profile of the next city manager and mutually agreed on a transition to end her employment,” Berrios said during the meeting.

Gayden was recruited as an interim city manager in February 2020 after serving as a financial director to several distressed communities in Illinois. Gayden arrived nearly three years ago to find Long Beach deficits and long-term debt near $500 million, including outstanding pension and separation agreements, and legal judgments against the city.

Gayden’s hiring was intended to be a short-term role to turn around the city’s finances, but she was quickly given two contract extensions, including one in November 2021 that ran through the end of 2023.

“Donna arrived in Long Beach at one of our lowest moments, which also happened to be the start of the pandemic and all of the uncertainties it brought,” City Council president Karen McInnis said in a statement. “She worked tirelessly over the next nearly three years to help right this ship, and we have a lot to show for it, especially in terms of our dramatically improved financial position. We greatly appreciate her leadership and wish her well on the next stop of her professional journey.”

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