The League of California Cities Past Presidents Council today announced the selection of the former city manager, city attorney, city council member, and League Board of Directors member John Russo as the recipient of the 2020 Past Presidents’ Lifetime Achievement Award. He received the honor today during the opening General Session of the League’s 2020 Annual Conference & Expo.
When John Russo stepped down from the League board, including a successful term as president, former Executive Director Chris McKenzie wrote the following in Western City magazine:
“No one can listen to John speak without believing he understands the powerful call that motivates city officials to serve their communities.”
After graduating from Yale with honors and finishing law school at New York University, John became a legal aid lawyer in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1987, at 28 years old, Russo moved to Oakland where he knew no one. Seven years later, he was elected to the Oakland city council in a landslide.
John is the only person in California who has worked as a city council member, a full time city attorney, and a city manager. His municipal roles have been varied, and so have the cities in which he has served: Oakland, Alameda, Riverside, and Irvine.
Today’s award honors an unusual public service career, studded with recognition. John was the first recipient of the League’s Champion of Local Democracy award. His innovative “Oakland Neighborhood Law Corps” won the National League of Cities Award for Municipal Excellence and also the League of California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence.
In 2004, John was named Public Lawyer of the Year by California Lawyer magazine.
The League Past Presidents’ Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 1996 and is given annually to an individual who has made a significant and unique contribution to the state of his or her community over an extended period of years. Preference is given to nominees with close ties to cities; however, nominees may also be selected from the categories of local government leaders, academics/teachers, authors, media producers, community leaders, and state or national leaders.