Sep 17, 2021

Chief Operating Officer

$174,400 - $261,600 yearly
  • First 5 LA
  • Los Angeles, CA, USA
Full-Time Executive Management (CEO/ED)

Job Description


Overview: First 5 LA is a leading early childhood advocacy organization, systems-change leader, and grant-maker, which seeks results through policy change, practice change and public-will building. It does so with diverse partners who share First 5 LA’s aspirations for children and with an intentional focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. Over the past 20+ years, First 5 LA has invested more than $2 billion to improve the wellbeing of children prenatal to age five. The FY 2020-21 budget of $120 million makes First 5 LA one of the largest investors in early childhood wellbeing in the country.

2020-28 Strategic Plan: In November 2019, First 5 LA’s Board of Commissioners approved the 2020-28 Strategic Plan that boldly articulates the organization’s “North Star” – that by 2028, all children in Los Angeles County will enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life. To reach its North Star, First 5 LA works with partners (including nonprofit and advocacy organizations, public agencies, elected officials and communities) to enhance systems in L.A. County to be more family-centered and child-focused.  The Strategic Plan reaffirms the commitment to systems change and greater focus on what First 5 LA is doing to make a tangible difference in the lives of children today and tomorrow.

Operational/Administrative Change Mandate: To fulfill its multiple roles as advocate, systems change leader, grant-maker and partner, First 5 LA has been working to improve its business processes and practices, structure, staffing and culture to align with the strategic direction and enable meaningful progress towards the North Star. For the first time, the Strategic Plan includes a specific focus on improving operational effectiveness.

As a part of Strategic Plan implementation, the organizational structure evolved in November 2020, to align to the refined strategy.  More broadly, the Plan recognizes the role that staffing, business processes and culture play in improving operational effectiveness. As such, leaders at all levels of the organization are expected to play a critical role in shaping and leading the organization’s evolution by fostering a culture that embodies the adopted organizational values (collaboration, learning, integrity, and diversity, equity and inclusion) in all interactions and in the work internally and externally.

Opportunity: The role of the new Chief Operating Officer, Center for Operational Excellence (COO) was established as part of First 5 LA’s unwavering commitment to be a high-impact organization that contributes to the achievement of results for children and families in partnership with others. The COO reports directly to the Executive Director and is a member of First 5 LA’s Senior Leadership Team, which includes five additional Chiefs and the Executive Vice President – all of whom are direct reports and key advisors to the Executive Director.

The COO is responsible for working collaboratively across the organization to shape and guide First 5 LA’s internal operational systems, processes and culture changes critical to the impact sought for young children and their families. The COO oversees the Center for Operational Excellence (COE), comprising 27 staff, projects and initiatives totaling $18.5 million. The Center is organized into four teams (Contract Administration & Purchasing, Finance, Information Technology and Workplace Management), which report to the COO.

As an organization-wide leader, the COO will model and embed the organization’s values into the operations and administrative work. In particular, the COO is expected to: embrace difference in perspectives and experiences, actively engage colleagues across the organization, regardless of position or level of authority, continuously challenge assumptions underlying approaches, and seek solutions to achieve operational excellence.  

History: In 1998 California voters passed Proposition 10, which levied a 50-cent per pack tax on all tobacco products. The resulting tax revenues were earmarked for the creation of a comprehensive system of information and services to advance early childhood development and school readiness within each county in California. In Los Angeles County, the First 5 LA Commission was formed as a public entity that develops and oversees various early childhood initiatives and manages funding from Proposition 10.  

Governance: The First 5 LA Board of Commissioners comprises 17 members (nine voting, four ex-officio, and four alternates). Currently, the Board includes voting members appointed by each of the Los Angeles County Supervisors and the County departments of Mental Health, Public Health, and Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). The Chairman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors designates a Board representative to serve on the Board of Commissioners.

More information is available at


The COO is an organization-wide leader, a member of the Senior Leadership Team and a direct report and key advisor to the Executive Director. As an organization-wide leader, the COO plans, coordinates, and prioritizes the COE’s work in close collaboration with members of the senior and broader leadership teams as well as staff throughout the organization.   

Leading with an adaptive mindset, the COO partners with the COE leadership team to achieve operational excellence by improving internal processes, workflows, procedures and systems. They cultivate and grow the administrative and operational systems that support First 5 LA’s work as an advocate, systems change leader, partner and grant maker. The COO develops and maintains effective relationships with internal stakeholders and external partners in government, non-profits and the private sector. 

The COO invests in growing the capabilities of the COE leadership and their teams, and works with colleagues across the organization to develop performance metrics to measure progress on change efforts.  While adhering to the requirements of First 5 LA’s status as a public entity, the COO leads a culture which embraces transformation and continual improvement.  Given First 5 LA’s evolving fiscal reality, the COO ensures the organization maximizes available revenue sources and, when appropriate, partners with the Executive Vice President and Center for Child & Family Impact team and others to pursue new dedicated revenue for early childhood.


 Key Areas of Oversight: 

  • Leads the COE team, developing the internal leadership capacity and the skills, knowledge and relationships needed to fully execute the Center’s mission to understand and support the core business and contribute to overall organizational impact;
  • Shapes and cultivates a culture of transformation and continual improvement that embraces COE’s role in achieving the goals described in the Strategic Plan;
  • Oversees Center resource allocation, performance metrics, partnership agreements, contracts, data collection, and learning;
  • Manages the Center consistent with the requirements of a public entity, and as a good steward of public tax dollars;
  • Ensures that operational and administrative functions align with organizational values and First 5 LA’s strategic direction; 
  • Oversees finance, accounting, payroll and audit functions consistent with Commission-approved financial policies; adds value to the development, Commission adoption and implementation of the annual budget, long term financial planning, and administrative cap;
  • Oversees contract administration and procurement; offers thought-partnership and direction in developing alternatives, solving problems, developing agreements with external partners, and interfacing with legal counsel to develop approaches and solutions as needed;
  • Ensures appropriate level of organizational risk management across the COE functional areas; and oversees policies and procedures to detect and prevent illegal, unethical or improper conduct;
  • Oversees development and execution of information technology strategy; provides input and insights as to the technology needs of the organization, and approves the selection of hardware, software, business applications, contractors and vendors to support the IT platform  and maintain data security;
  • Oversees the public records management processes in accordance with the organization’s records management policy;
  • Ensures that the physical and virtual working environments provide a safe, collaborative and productive climate for operations through planning, capital improvements, building services, maintenance, and information technology;
  • Serves as the executive sponsor for organization-wide, COE-led projects.

Essential Duties:

  • Advises the Executive Director and Commission, when needed, on all facets of the internal operations; effectively communicates and advocates for improvements in organizational effectiveness and champions problem-solving;  
  • Drives internal system change and process improvement efforts, enabling and promoting a culture of learning and continual improvement which will grow the team’s capacity to deliver on strategic objectives;
  • Hires, leads, mentors, supervises and evaluates COE’s team directors, adding value to the leadership and management of their respective teams through coaching, thought-partnership and problem-solving
  • Resolves operational and administrative issues, interprets organizational policy and enforces consistency of organizational values, policies and procedures; keeps Executive Director apprised of problems and solutions; elevates matters for review, input and decisions as needed;
  • Elevates new ideas and proven strategies to leverage First 5 LA’s resources, maximize revenue and address sustainability challenges;
  • Develops the Center’s annual budget proposal, monitors expenditures against the budget and administrative cap, and makes on-going adjustments as needed;
  • Approves resolutions to workplace and facilities issues, including office moves, desk configurations, storage, maintenance and painting, parking and security;
  • Collaborates with the Center for Children & Family Impact and Offices of Communications, Data for Action, Equity, Strategy & Learning and Government Affairs & Public Policy to find innovative and efficient solutions to support the operational and administrative functions of the organization; 
  • Understands the broader Los Angeles County ecosystem in which First 5 LA works;
  • Keeps apprised of and interprets all laws, regulations, statutes, rules and policies affecting First 5 LA and Proposition 10 .

Hiring Organization

First 5 LA



The successful candidate will be passionate about improving the lives of young children and their families. This senior executive will be authentic and have a natural desire to make a difference in others’ lives. They will carry their significant knowledge, skills and experience with humility. They will be recognized for being inclusive and collaborative, with a strong track record in organizational change leadership, team and staff development, and leading work through empowering others.

This leader has 15 years (preferred) of progressively more responsible leadership or management experience in operations (finance, contracts, workplace/facilities and information technology) of government, philanthropy or non-profit organizations. Previous professional experience as a leader of the full breadth of administrative functions and in the public sector is highly desired. A background that includes work for public agencies engaged in systems change in social services, health, early care and education or child welfare is preferred. 

Knowledge, Skills & Abilities:

  • Deep strategic and systems thinker with intellectual curiosity about all the functions of COE and the ability to connect the administrative functions to organizational values and impact; 
  • Adaptive mindset with the demonstrated ability to work with diverse internal and external partners and stakeholders, including many within public systems, to advance aligned goals and adapt to changing contexts, opportunities and challenges;
  • Knowledge of innovative systems improvement in the public sector; ability to seek out and develop the best ideas to improve administrative systems and processes to execute on First 5 LA’s Strategic Plan; outstanding project management skills; ability to oversee multiple work streams/projects/teams simultaneously;
  • Deep commitment and understanding of anti-racism and the experiences of childhood; capacity to build on the internal Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) initiatives of the organization;
  • Knowledge of historical and current context and root causes of inequities within society, systems and institutions, value a diversity of perspectives and encourage contributions by all team members. 
  • Effective facilitator of integration and performance; ability to drive process improvement metrics, and provide insights and draw conclusions from financial metrics, evaluation data and other learnings;
  • Leadership and influencing skills to promote trust, collaboration and partnership and move teams forward through organizational change;
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills with demonstrated ability to develop and deliver executive and Commission-level communications;
  • Ability to read, interpret and contribute to financial planning documents and budgets;
  • Ability to inform, plan, coordinate, collaborate, prioritize and execute across the Senior Leadership Team;
  • Effective people manager who actively provides direction, guidance and feedback to strengthen knowledge, develop skills, accomplish tasks and solve problems;
  • Innovator who leverages financial resources beyond Prop 10 revenue for the benefit of the organization;
  • Thoughtful leader who considers internal and external stakeholder needs and incorporates those impacts in decision-making;
  • Demonstrated analytical and critical thinking skills; provides recommendations with supporting rationale and business rationale;
  • Ability to orient to the whole of the organization; to link multiple perspectives, interests, and related processes to reach consensus and develop strategies; and to balance team needs and interests with an organization-wide perspective . 


  • Minimum of 15 years of progressively more responsible leadership or management experience in operations of a government, philanthropy or non-profit organization.  Experience in public agencies in social services, health, early care and education or child welfare highly desired;
  • Strong understanding and previous leadership of the range of functions within COE (finance, contracts, workplace/facilities and information technology);
  • Recognized as an organizational change management leader, with the experience of working through team members to align staffing, processes and culture to strategy;
  • Recognized as an effective thought-partner and collaborator to top decision-makers, someone who has the insight and judgement to offer solutions to complex problems and issues, and the confidence and tenacity to effectively represent their point of view;  
  • Demonstrated success in administrative planning and control, including budgeting;
  • Track-record of working in collaboration with colleagues and internal/external partners with diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, political and religious views, cultural backgrounds, lifestyles, and sexual orientation with demonstrated experience of treating everyone with respect and dignity;
  • Demonstrated success in working with a diversity of partners to identify, design, test and spread innovative and proven approaches to address organizational goals;
  • Track record of hiring, cultivating and leading high-performing teams that implement integrated strategies with measurable outcomes;
  • Recognized for accurately and quickly assessing problems, thinking strategically about solutions and leading teams through problem solving;
  • Track record of effectively prioritizing work, knowing when to lean in and when to back away based on prudent financial management, staff capacity and sustainability;
  • Track record of effectively working through external partners, grantees, vendors and contractors to achieve organizational goals;
  • Demonstrated success at navigating political sensitivities and building relationships.


  • Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college or university in public administration, business administration, finance or a related field;
  • Advanced degree preferred. 

Remote Work:

  • To protect the safety and health of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, First 5 LA employees will continue to work remotely through the end of 2021. Subject to changing public health conditions, First 5 LA plans to transition to a hybrid work organization beginning in 2022, allowing a combination of on-site work in First 5 LA’s offices and remote work options.
  • First 5 LA does not permit employees to work remotely out of state. Upon acceptance of an offer from First 5 LA, proof of in-state residency is required. If the residence is located outside of the Greater Los Angeles area, an employee working remotely must provide assurance that they will be able to begin working onsite when the organization returns to the First 5 LA building.
  • Remote work is not guaranteed and is at the sole discretion of First 5 LA.

Computer Skills:

  • Proficiency in MS Office Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook);
  • Proficiency in web-based collaboration and/or meeting platforms (Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Sli-do etc.) 

Travel Requirements:

  • Position requires travel locally, statewide and nationally as needed.

The statements in this narrative represent typical elements, criteria, and general work performed; they are not to be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties and skills required for the position.

Industry/Service Area

Advocacy/Social Action, Public Policy






First 5 LA offers a competitive senior non-profit or government executive salary. 


First 5 LA pays for 100% of the premiums for employee and dependents for medical, dental, vision benefits, and for employee’s life and long-term disability insurance policies; benefit eligibility takes effect on the first of the month following 30 days of employment. 

Retirement Savings:

First 5 LA offers a 403(b) retirement savings and investment plan through The Standard. First 5 LA makes a contribution to employee retirement savings of 3% of salary for less than 5 years of service, 4.5% for 5-9 years; 6% for 10-14 years; 7.5% for 15 years or more.

In addition, First 5 LA matches 100% of an employee’s elective contribution, up to 3% of salary after 2 years of service or more; a matching benefit of 1% of salary is available from the first day of employment, and increases to 2% of salary after the first year.  

Application Instructions

Application Process

First 5 LA has partnered with Justus McGinity Executive Search to complete this recruitment. Interested candidates are encouraged to submit their resumes promptly via this link :

There is no established deadline for the submission of applications; resumes will be accepted until the position is filled. Only candidates who move beyond the review of submitted written materials will be contacted by Justus McGinity Executive Search or First 5 LA.

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