On Monday, April 27, Karen Ginsberg, the City of Santa Monica’s Director of Community and Cultural Services has announced she will be retiring from her post on July 4, 2020 after 25 years with the City and a 36-year career in city government.
Responsible for leading one of the City’s largest departments since December 2011, Karen has provided critical staff leadership in planning for and implementing a wide range of community-based programs and services including oversight of the City’s parks and beach, cultural and arts programming, human services, and recreation.
“Karen is a highly respected and valued member of the City’s Executive Team. We will miss her keen intellect, sound judgment, deep knowledge of the community, and commitment to the values that the City Council and community embody,” said Lane Dilg, Interim City Manager. “I know Karen has been contemplating her retirement over the past year. I join her colleagues and community members across the City in thanking her for her leadership in developing the vibrant arts and public spaces that characterize our community and for her commitment to restructuring a team to meet the significant challenges that now face us.”
Ginsberg had planned to retire in the fall of 2020 after Council action on the Parks and Recreation Master Plan Update. However, due to the COVID-19 emergency, the trajectory and original timeline for this plan is not currently possible. “The pandemic has caused me to think carefully about the long-term needs of the department as well as consider my professional and personal goals,” said Karen Ginsberg. “These considerations are interrelated and complex. Advancing my retirement by a few months, allows me to guide the Community and Cultural Services Department through restructuring, leading to budget adoption in June. It will also provide for new departmental leadership that must be sustained over a number of years as necessary transformative change takes place.”
In announcing her retirement, Ginsberg reflected on her time with the City. “When I joined the City staff as a transplanted Bostonian, I knew that I had landed in a special community that valued its people and its places,” said Karen Ginsberg. “The level of focus and ongoing commitment from Santa Monica to advance the values of the community and do cool things that other communities only dreamed of is what sets it apart. It’s been my honor to work with the most gifted and dedicated people at City Hall. Together, we led in sustainability, the arts, and providing a safety net for those in need. The City’s parks were recognized by the City Council and residents as an asset with tremendous potential and together we developed the City’s first Parks and Recreation Master Plan. Helping to realize the goals of the Master Plan through significant and sustained investment has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my career. I hope that when the time is right, an updated plan is brought forward to lay the groundwork for the next two decades.”
With degrees from Skidmore College (BA) and Columbia University (MS), Karen began her career in public service with the City of Santa Monica in 1984 as a city planner, when she moved cross country from Boston, MA. After working for several other agencies including the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRALA), Karen returned to become the Planning Manager in 1994 and was instrumental in shaping the City’s first Parks and Recreation Master Plan leading to her appointment as the CCS Assistant Director in 2000. During her tenure as CCS Assistant Director she oversaw a number of parks projects including the expansion of Virginia Avenue Park, and the development of Airport Park, Euclid Park, Tongva Park, and Ken Genser Square. As the CCS project manager for the Annenberg Community Beach House, Karen utilized her skills in community outreach, city planning, historic preservation, and capital project development to navigate the complex approval process for this award-winning gem. In December 2011, Karen was appointed as the Director of CCS where she has led the Department in the delivery of robust programs and services in the arts, recreation, and social services.