SPA alumna (MPA, '07) Monique Earl has been appointed the new executive officer of the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT). Earl, assistant general manager at LADOT for the past four years, has more than 20 years of experience, including as deputy mayor and chief deputy controller. In this new role, she will serve as the general manager’s proxy in dealings with the city council, commissioners, the business community, and citizens, oversee 3,000 employees, and plan and execute a budget of half a billion dollars.
Earl’s path to the top of the local government food chain led through positions in the banking sector, to a management position at the Getty Museum, to the LA City Council, and finally LADOT. Mid-career and rising fast, Earl looked for MPA programs, and was attracted by AU’s particular mission and history of training civil servants, as well as a campus that “looks like home [and] feels like home.”
She earned her MPA with a focus in management consulting in 2007, and finds herself covering multiple disciplines in her daily duties, including personnel, budgeting and finance, procurement, risk management, local government, management of field operations, facilities, and infrastructure, and project implementation.
“The management consulting concentration touched on a little bit of everything, and gave me the foundation to problem-solve across disciplines and systems,” she said. She also attributed her recent promotion to this flexible toolkit, which helped her develop a strong background in finance and large-scale project management.
Several AU courses made a lasting impression, including an economics course with Dr. Robert Feinberg, whose tutelage inspired both her career in public finance and a daily addiction to the Wall Street Journal. Especially impactful was Leadership in a Changing Workplace with Dr. Patrick Malone, director of SPA’s Key Executive Leadership Programs.
“That book,” Earl said of the course’s textbook, Servant Leadership in Action by Ken Blanchard, “is really fundamental to how I lead my teams today and how I use my leadership platform to serve others. I can use my skill, talent, and empathy to serve ‘the least of these,’ and it has been really life-changing and fulfilling.”
When asked to identify LADOT’s biggest policy challenge, Earl pointed to safety and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Vision Zero initiative, which seeks to eliminate traffic deaths by 2025. The department has adopted a strategy that prioritizes community education and careful street design rather than aggressive speed limit enforcement.
“Over 250 people died on our streets as a result of car crashes last year... We have put the onus on our planners and engineers to change the built environment and bring those deaths to zero,” she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought additional challenges to the department, most notably a budget slashed by declining tax revenues, fines, and fees. These budget constraints have led to the passage of early retirement incentive packages, speeding up the agency’s “silver tsunami” of retiring workers and necessitating succession planning.
“We are losing 20% of our staff and their institutional knowledge to early retirement,” said Earl. “It’s forcing management to take a step back and come up with policies, procedures, and systems to run the department without that staff in place.”
When asked to share a message for SPA students interested in a public service career, Earl charged them to understand and combat the ubiquity of structural racism throughout public policy.
“Really get educated on the history of public policy at the local level,” she said. “Much of that public policy, whether it was transportation, housing, economic development, or environmental issues, was built on structural racism. It is going to be [your] job to go in and dismantle those policies. But you can’t do that unless you take the time to understand how and why these policies were put into place. It is baked into government and the way that it runs and functions.”