New Counsel lends a steady hand
July 25, 2012
When John F. Krattli started work at the Los Angeles County Counsel’s office, fresh out of law school, his plan was to do a few years there and then move.
“I was so sure that I wasn’t going to be here long-term that when my wife and I needed money to make a down payment on a home in the early 1980s, I pulled out of the county retirement system,” he recalls, chuckling. “I never envisioned things would turn out the way they did.”
This week, Krattli, a 33-year employee of the county, was officially named Los Angeles County Counsel, a job he has unofficially held since early this year. He succeeds Andrea Ordin, who held the post for two years before retiring at the end of January.
“It’s definitely an honor,” he says, “even if it’s not entirely new.’
As the county’s top lawyer, Krattli, 59, will oversee some 520 employees, including 285 attorneys. His salary will be $275,000 a year.
The son of a U.S. Navy commander, he was born in Norfolk,Va., and raised in Japan and San Diego County. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in economics, spent a year working at the Stanford Research Institute and then entered the UCLA School of Law.
He was admitted to the State Bar in late November 1978 and started work in the general litigation division of the County Counsel’s office five weeks later. Over the ensuing decades, he would come to oversee at least a half-dozen divisions of the office, and to play a part in some of the most complex municipal litigation in Southern California.
His assignments as a deputy county counsel, for instance, included the massive Big Rock Mesa lawsuit, which was one of the largest inverse condemnation cases in local history. The case stemmed from a 1983 landslide above Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu and lasted some 4 1/2 years before the county, the state and some 240 homeowners reached a settlement.
He also began to rise through the ranks—his initial career plans notwithstanding. He was made chief of the office’s public works division in 1994, and became principal advisor to the Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission, advising LAFCO during the unsuccessful Hollywood, Harbor area and San Fernando Valley secession bids in 2002.
He was promoted again, in 2003, to senior assistant county counsel, and became a member of the Los Angeles County Claims Board the following year.
Along the way, he bought back into the retirement system.
“In fact, I was contemplating retiring myself,” he says laughing.
An avid traveler and father of two, Krattli, who lives in Simi Valley, said he had just started thinking about taking trips with his wife, Kay, a retired Granada Hills schoolteacher, and spending more time with his 1-year-old twin grandsons when Ordin and her chief deputy both announced last year that they would be retiring. By then, Krattli had served under six County Counsels.
Ordin named him Acting Chief Deputy in December, and he has been Acting County Counsel since February 1.
“It wasn’t my intention to become the County Counsel, but I’ve certainly enjoyed the job,” Krattli says. “It’s certainly been challenging. There is never a lack of issues, and the county has great managers to work with. And we have not only just an outstanding group of attorneys and staff, but a very collegial and friendly workplace.”
In fact, he says, one of his great satisfactions on the job stems from the long experience that he and many of his coworkers share with the county, and the knowledge that he is surrounded by steady hands.
“One of our hallmarks in this office is that people like to work here, and that has certainly been to the benefit of the county, because it means that there’s just a tremendous amount of historical knowledge here,” Krattli says.
“There are many people in this office who have worked here for a long time, and who have developed tremendous expertise.”
Now—whether he envisioned it or not—the office will be led by one of them.