Lessons Learned from 2015 New & Future City Managers Seminar

2015 NFCM Seminar

Photo courtesy of Matt Huffaker

The annual CCMF New & Future City Managers Seminar is one of several ways that the California City Management Foundation supports the next generation of City Managers. This multi-day workshop is an excellent opportunity for any new City Manager or aspiring City Manager to receive hands-on mentoring from experienced City Managers. No questions are off limits and participants freely share their hopes, concerns and questions about the ins and outs of the city manager role. The 2015 NFCM Seminar took place in Newport Beach in November 2015 with a cohort of 22 students:

  • Majed Al-Ghafry – Assistant City Manager – City of El Cajon
  • Audrey Brown – Assistant City Manager – City of Westlake Village
  • Bryan Cook – City Manager – City of Temple City
  • Jeremy Craig – Assistant City Manager – City of Vacaville
  • Michelle Fitzer – City Manager – City of Pinole
  • Robert Frizzelle – Community Services Manager – City of Fountain Valley
  • Patrick Gallegos – Assistant City Manager – City of Seal Beach
  • David Gouin – Interim Assistant City Manager / Director of Economic Development & Housing – City of Santa Rosa
  • Michelle Grettenberg – Assistant to the City Manager – City of Irvine
  • Lorenzo Hines, Jr. – Assistant City Manager – City of Pacifica
  • Matt Huffaker – Assistant to the City Manager – City of Walnut Creek
  • John Jansons – City Manager – City of Farmersville
  • David Mickaelian – City Manager – City of Healdsburg
  • Andrew Murray – Assistant City Manager – City of Pleasant Hill
  • Alfonso Noyola – City Manager – City of Arvin
  • Dan Paranick – Assistant City Manager – City of Ventura
  • Ann Ritzma – Interim Assistant City Manager – City of Foster City
  • Don Schwartz – Assistant City Manager – City of Rohnert Park
  • Richard Shoemaker – City Manager – City of Point Arena
  • Andi Welsh – City Manager – City of Lemore
  • Matt West – Assistant to the City Manager – City of Tustin
  • Al Zelinka – Assistant City Manager – City of Riverside

Seven longtime city managers acted as Seminar facilitators:

  • Bruce Channing – City Manager for Laguna Hills
  • Wade McKinney – City Manager for Shafter, Atascadero, and Indian Wells
  • Marcia Raines – City Manager for Half Moon Bay and Millbrae
  • Paul Arevalo – City Manager for West Hollywood
  • Dan Keen – City Manager for La Palma, Seaside, Novato, Concord and Vallejo
  • Jeff Kolin – City Manager for Pittsburg, Santa Rosa and Beverly Hills
  • Ken Pulskamp – City Manager for Santa Clarita, Burbank, and Palmdale

“Many of the 2015 NFCM participants told me they found the workshop to be very stimulating and informative,” said CCMF Executive Director Ken Pulskamp. “When you get seasoned City Managers and newer/future City Managers in a room together, there is bound to be some deep exploration of tough questions and interesting challenges.”

“The NFCM Seminar is a one-of-a-kind gathering where those who are new to (or considering) the City Manager role can ask questions in a confidential environment and receive advice straight from those who have walked the road before,” said NFCM Seminar organizer Bruce Channing. “Not only is the workshop beneficial for the participants, but the facilitators always come away with additional insight into how they can better support the next generation of City Managers. I’m really grateful for the continued support of our seasoned City Managers to put on this flagship CCMF event year after year.”

Below are some insights and “lessons learned” from some of the 2015 NFCM Seminar participants. If you are interested in participating in the 2016 New & Future City Managers Seminar, stay tuned to cacitymanagers.org/nfcm for more information.

How did you hear about the New & Future City Managers Seminar?

  • Audrey Brown – Assistant City Manager – City of Westlake Village – Several of my colleagues from other local cities had attended the NFCM Seminar in the past and highly recommended it. Additionally, I also continue to search out growth opportunities as they become available, and the Seminar was an excellent resource for me as I aspire to be a City Manager in the future.
  • Andi Welsh – City Manager – City of Lemore – A supportive City Manager I used to work for in Arizona, who is now the City Manager in Simi Valley, was the first call I made when I landed a role in California. He pointed me in the right direction of which California professional organizations to join (in addition to already being a member of ICMA). He also suggested I check out the NFCM seminar, so I applied as soon as I saw it posted.
  • Majed Al-Ghafry – Assistant City Manager – City of El Cajon – I heard about the seminar from my El Cajon co-worker Brett Channing, then acquired more details from the facilitator Bruce Channing.
  • Andrew Murray – Assistant City Manager – City of Pleasant Hill – I am a CCMF member, so I heard about the NFCM Seminar through CCMF’s communications.

Which topics did you find most helpful, and why?

  • Audrey Brown – Having worked for several City Managers over the years, what I found most helpful was the speakers’ experience (challenges and wins) in working with the City Council and their communities. The speakers were able to effectively articulate how they dealt with those challenges and the tools they used to overcome each of them.
  • Andi Welsh – The session I found the most helpful was on common mistakes for first-time managers. Many of the concepts discussed were great points and areas to ensure success but, admittedly, I did find them a bit overwhelming at how to survive while being able to avoid all of the pitfalls! (There were over 16 main items presented, such as staying positive, failing to recognize important issues, not to distance yourself from difficult council members, etc.). There were definitely some things I recognized in myself that I’m trying to work on.
  • Majed Al-Ghafry – All the topics were relevant and equally important to me. I especially loved the engaging group discussions, the effect of the profession on personal life, and the common mistakes made by City Managers. I also benefited greatly from the opinions and advice relating to the Assistant City Manager-City Manager relationship and City Manager-Council relations.
  • Andrew Murray – I found the Council-Manager Relations session to be the most helpful because it provided very valuable insight on a complex topic that is key to a city manager’s success but is hard to learn without firsthand experience. Similarly, I found the session on Most Common Mistakes Made by City Managers to be very instructive. It’s so valuable to glean wisdom from the profession’s luminaries!

Are there any work-related tips or tricks you started using right away after the Seminar?

  • Audrey Brown – The NFCM Seminar pointed out to me some areas where I need to gain some additional knowledge in preparation for the next step in my career. After the Seminar, I signed up for some online educational learning for those skills areas I wanted to enhance.
  • Andi Welsh – There are many things I followed up on afterwards that I didn’t know beforehand (such as making sure I meet with the financial auditors before and after the audit). But one of the most important things I did was to refocus paying attention to my relationships with my council members and to our volunteer fire department. One of my many 2016 New Year’s resolutions is to communicate to the council on at least a bi-weekly basis to update them on current activities. That is an area where I was not spending much time. With regards to the fire department, which is an all-male, all-volunteer fire department with multi-generational ties in the community. As Lemoore’s first (and probably youngest) female city manager, I have not been received as well as some of my predecessors. Instead of shying away from the volunteers, I am now consciously working hard to engage the volunteer fire chief and meet with the volunteers. One of the suggestions from City Manager Marcia Raines was to cook dinner and spend time with the firefighters. That is now on my 2016 to-do list to extend the invitation to them.
  • Majed Al-Ghafry – I definitely took away a broader perspective about maintaining a positive work/life balance. I also feel like I am approaching my relationship with my City Manager with a more open mind.

Which of the NFCM Resources did you find most useful, and why?

  • Audrey Brown – The materials provided to us prior to the seminar were excellent which I have placed in a handbook that I can refer to in both my current position as well as when I make the next step in my career. I also enjoyed interacting with the other Seminar participants and listening to each of their career stories and the communities they serve.
  • Andi Welsh – As a new professional to California, the networking was incredibly helpful to meet other professionals encountering the same challenges. Additionally, while I have not yet plowed through all of the advanced reading material, the information provided prior to the seminar has been very on-point and helpful.
  • Majed Al-Ghafry – The personal conversations I had with the facilitators were the most useful resource for me. Reading articles and publications is helpful, but there is no substitute for the firsthand communications with some of the greatest leaders in the country.
  • Andrew Murray – Right now, I am at a point in my professional development and career where the personal/professional evaluation and assessment materials are very valuable. I have also been using the Skills Required for Success and 2015 Self-Assessment to guide my professional development and projects.

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