With the wave of a big Mickey Mouse white glove, Disneyland Resort president Josh D’Amaro bid farewell to Anaheim on social media last week. He’s heading back to Walt Disney World after fewer than two years on the job, a departure amid an eyebrow-raising shuffle of Disney executives.
“It is with mixed emotions that I will be leaving the Disneyland Resort and accepting the role as president of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando,” D’Amaro wrote on Instagram. “But of all of the things, it is the people I will miss most of all. The amazing cast, our wonderful guests and our incredible passholders.”
The goodbye fits in with the likeable reputation he earned during his 19-month tenure, which ends next month.
Brief though D’Amaro’s time was, it proved pivotal. Of course, he oversaw the single-largest expansion in Disneyland’s history, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, for better or worse. But beyond that, Disneyland also faced its most significant political challenges in Anaheim and from within its own labor force.
Last year, Disney fought the passage of Anaheim’s resort-area living-wage law at the onset, but it came to the negotiating table willing to raise wages for most of its 31,000 workers to $15 per hour. D’Amaro also touted Disney Aspire, a program that covers college-tuition costs for workers.
Then, in the heat of the election, D’Amaro shocked all political observers by calling on the Anaheim City Council to shred two subsidy agreements, including $267 million in tax breaks for a planned Disney luxury hotel that has since been shelved.
Disney critics on the council hoped the moment would be a “reset button,” ushering in a new era of peace or at least a détente. But Disney flushed Anaheim’s district-elections system with campaign contributions that helped to return a friendly majority to the dais. Cancelling subsidies also gave Disney an escape hatch from the living-wage law’s triggers.
D’Amaro’s tenure gave much to consider, but the Disney president and his handlers always turned down pitches for a Weekly profile.
Rebecca Campbell is set to replace D’Amaro as new Disneyland Resort president, only the second woman in its 64-year history to hold the position.