County of Marin - News Releases - New CDA Director

For Immediate Release
April 08, 2021

New Community Development Director is One of County’s Own

Tom Lai has served 29 years with the department

San Rafael, CA – The next leader of the Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA) has been No. 2 on the team for the past 11 years. Assistant Director Tom Lai, who has spent his entire 29-year professional career with the County of Marin, is the choice to take over CDA following the December 2020 retirement of longtime director Brian Crawford.

Tom Lai stands with his arms crossed while standing on the balcony of the Marin County Civic Center.Tom Lai has served 29 years with the department, including 11 years as Assistant Department Head.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors will consider the recommendation of County Administrator Matthew Hymel to confirm Lai’s appointment at its regular meeting April 13.

“We are very fortunate to have someone of Tom’s skills and abilities to take on this important leadership position,” said County Administrator Matthew Hymel. “Tom is the consummate professional who is well respected by both staff and community stakeholders.”

Lai served as acting director since Crawford’s departure. Marin CDA has over 90 employees and an annual budget of $20.5 million. CDA oversees planning, building & safety, housing, code enforcement, environmental health, environmental review, sustainability, federal grants, and mapping. According to its mission, CDA is “dedicated to promoting, protecting, and advancing healthy, safe, and equitable communities.”

Since 2010, Lai has been the Chief Assistant CDA Director. He led the creation of the Development Services Center, a one-stop shop for CDA customer services at the Marin County Civic Center and led technological advancements in permit tracking. He and his teams developed Marin County’s first ordinance for medical cannabis business licensing, an interim Stream Conservation Area ordinance, updates to three community plans for unincorporated Marin neighborhoods, and Local Coast Program amendments. He has extensive knowledge of the Marin Countywide Plan’s 2007 Update and the operations of the Marin County Planning Commission, Design Review Board, and other public panels that meet regularly.  

Lai has been active in several leadership efforts with the County. He handled roles in a Cultural Intelligence and Competency Team, a Leadership Academy Design Team, and Fireside Affordable Housing Team that all received honors from the Board of Supervisors. He is a co-founder of the Marin Asian-American Public Local Employees, one of several affinity groups that celebrate cultural understanding amid the workforce and in the community. Earlier in his career with CDA, Lai was a principal planner for seven years, a senior planner for five years, and a planner for four years.

Lai, who grew up in San Jose, earned both a bachelor’s degree in architecture and a master’s degree in city planning from the University of California at Berkeley. Lai’s annual salary will be $204,401 and his benefits will be consistent with those received by other County department heads.


Matthew Hymel
County Administrator
County Administrator's Office

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite #325
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6358
Email: Matthew Hymel
County Administrator website