Asserting his intent to change the operations of City Hall, longtime South Pasadena resident Jack Donovan is running for the City Council’s District 2 seat in November.
Donovan, who has lived in South Pasadena for 39 years, said retirement has afforded him time to dedicate to local politics and added he is largely driven by wanting to repair what he regards as a fractured relationship between the city government and its constituents. In particular, he voiced dissatisfaction with the leadership of City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe.
“City Hall is broken,” Donovan said. “There’s a high turnover rate there. Not all of it’s voluntary. The city manager there has just made it an unpleasant place to work. She just runs her ship in a different way.”
In his announcement, Donovan said the management of the city has created an environment of low morale among city employees and has hampered transparency to local residents. He said he is particularly troubled by “budget irregularities” as well as the tumultuous budgeting process that occurred this year without the context of a recent audit.
“It’s atrocious what’s going on with the budget,” he said. “It’s all to do with the administration.”
Donovan added that he also harbors concerns about the scale of development in town, emphasizing that he isn’t against it on principle but feels the city should work harder to make sure the projects fit the community.
“This city, it’s a beautiful city. Aesthetically it’s a very pretty city. These developments are just coming out of nowhere,” he said. “I definitely want to put the brakes on them. I want more, let’s call it reasonable development. I’m not anti-development. I’m for smart development, something that fits in with the character of the city. It’s a different city than most, and if you’re going to develop something, you want it to fit in with the character of it.”
In his career, Donovan launched and managed American Aerospace Materials, a Monterey Park company through which he distributed metals to other firms in the aerospace and nuclear industries. He and wife, Judith, raised five children here. The children all attended Mayfield Junior School in Pasadena, after which his three daughters matriculated to South Pasadena High School, one son attended Loyola High School in Los Angeles and the other went to St. Francis High School in La Cañada Flintridge.
Locally, Donovan volunteered as a commissioner with the city’s American Youth Soccer Organization region, for which he also coached and refereed. He also served on the SPHS Bingo Committee, which raises funds for the school. As a member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee for six years, Donovan was involved in decisions to build new restrooms, a new playground and a new rose garden at Garfield Park; restore the War Memorial Building and Eddy Park Meeting House; and install wrought iron trash bins throughout the city.
Speaking as a former commissioner, Donovan added that part of the dysfunction at City Hall has been a disregard for committee recommendations.
“The city manager doesn’t listen to them,” he said. “They’ll recommend something to go one way and come the City Council meeting, it’s not even on the agenda.”
Chief among the litany of issues facing the council, the candidate added, was of course the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has thrown a wrench into the city’s budget and also threatens the mom-and-pop makeup of South Pasadena’s distinctive commercial district.
“It’s really hurting the small businesses here. Some of them aren’t going to make it,” Donovan said. “I don’t know how the city’s going to deal with it. We don’t know what the future’s going to bring.”
District 2 has been represented by Marina Khubesrian, who is not seeking re-election.