Lessons Learned from 2019 New & Future City Managers Seminar

 

NFCM photo from 2019

Participants at a session at the 2019 NFCM seminar.

The annual CCMF New & Future City Managers Seminar (NFCM) 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 or aspiring city managers to receive hands-on mentoring from seasoned and retired city managers. Participants freely share their hopes, concerns and questions about all aspects of the city manager role and receive support as they start to navigate the challenging mix of fiscal management, politics, legal issues, and public relations that city managers face daily. 

The 2019 NFCM Seminar took place in Newport Beach from November 1-3, 2019. A cohort of 27 local government professionals attended the workshop.

  • Arn Andrews – Assistant Town Manager, Town of Los Gatos
  • Antonia Castro-Graham – Assistant to the City Manager, City of Huntington Beach
  • Shannon DeLong – Assistant City Manager, City of Whittier
  • David Guhin – Assistant City Manager, City of Santa Rosa
  • Andy Haussler – Community & Economic Development Director, City of Clovis
  • Justin Hess – City Manager, City of Burbank
  • Joe Irvin – Assistant City Manager, City of Healdsburg
  • Mike James – Assistant City Manager/PW Director, City of Lemon Grove
  • Nick Kimball – City Manager, City of San Fernando
  • Jacqui Kitchen – Assistant City Manager, City of Bakersfield
  • Joan Malloy – City Manager, City of Union City
  • Chris Mann – City Manager, City of Canyon Lake
  • Ken MacNab – Town Manager, Town of Windsor
  • Brittany Mello – Assistant to the City Manager, City of Monrovia
  • Keith Metzler – City Manager, City of Victorville
  • Ara Mihranian – Community Development Director, City of Rancho Palos Verdes
  • Matt Mogensen – Assistant City Manager, City of Marina
  • J.J. Murphy – Assistant City Manager, City of Palmdale
  • Keith Neves – Assistant City Manager, City of Lake Forest
  • Alexandra Orologas – Assistant City Manager, City of El Cerrito
  • Jason Simpson – Assistant City Manager, City of Lake Elsinore
  • Larry Theis – Assistant City Manager/Director of PW & ES, City of Orinda
  • Scott Trujillo – Deputy City Manager, City of Indio
  • Lauren Vasquez – Deputy City Manager, City of Monrovia
  • Andrew Vialpando – Assistant to the City Manager, City of Long Beach
  • Tony Winney – Assistant to the City Manager, City of Vista
  • Gabriella Yap – Deputy City Manager, City of Rancho Palos Verdes

Four of the 2019 NFCM participants shared their takeaways with us below. If you are interested in participating in the 2020 New & Future City Managers Seminar, stay tuned to cacitymanagers.org/nfcm for more information.

How did you first hear about the New & Future City Managers (NFCM) Seminar?

  • Arn Andrews – Assistant Town Manager, Town of Los Gatos: When I transitioned into the role of ACM my City Manager highlighted the program as a good professional development opportunity. While she never attended the training herself she knew of others who had and highly recommended it.
  • Justin Hess – Acting City Manager, City of Burbank: I saw the seminar announcement on a CCMF email. As a new City Manager, I thought it would be a great opportunity to attend for my professional development and growth.
  • Jacqui Kitchen – Assistant City Manager, City of Bakersfield: I first heard about the NFCM from my fellow ACM, Chris Huot. He said it was a conference he had attended about 2 years ago and it was the most meaningful and helpful event he had attended. As a new ACM, I was eager to follow this lead!
  • Joan Malloy City Manager, City of Union City: It was recommended to me by Jan Perkins, retired Fremont city manager.  Jan was also assisting the city with a management audit and strategic plan (prior to my accepting the city manager position) so the recommendation was very timely.  I chose to attend because I am a new city manager of 4 months. I have been a department director for over 10 years, but holding the lead position in the city is new for me.

Were there particular interactions you had with senior managers that were especially helpful?

  • Arn Andrews: More than any single interaction it was the ability to watch the interplay between the senior managers as they shared multiple perspectives and approaches to the same situation or challenge.
  • Justin Hess: Yes, the facilitators were great and shared a wealth of experience and knowledge. The senior managers clearly care about assisting others in the profession.  I enjoyed receiving a different perspective from each facilitator based on their particular city and its dynamics. I enjoyed that no topics were off limits and the facilitators were candid in their responses.
  • Jacqui Kitchen: Yes! All of the facilitators spend specific time mingling with the group during the less formal times (meals, breaks) and that was a great counterbalance to the more structured discussions (which were also very helpful!)
  • Joan Malloy:  The most helpful elements of the seminar for me was to hear about specific, concrete examples of problems and solutions (or failures); I enjoyed hearing about complex council-manager relationships and what worked and what did not.  

What were some of the best pieces of advice or tips you’re bringing back to your city from NFCM?

  • Arn Andrews: I think the honesty and humility the facilitators brought to discussing some of the things they’ve done wrong over the years. It helped us understand that mistakes we’ll probably make and that we’ll be judged on how we acknowledge and correct them rather then the mistake itself.
  • Justin Hess: It is not easy to single out just one piece of advice or tip. Each session was relevant and provided a lot of good information. The discussion about being yourself, the authentic you and not trying to think that you should know it all was valuable. I also found the discussions regarding employment agreements, performance evaluations and compensation guidelines were quite helpful.  I have already put a lot of the tips and advice into practice.
  • Jacqui Kitchen: It is hard to identify a single specific “best” interaction because there were so many! I really appreciated the “real world” examples that all of the facilitators used to bring reality to their more global topic. The entire seminar had a really positive flow, and I felt engaged the entire time. This is particularly meaningful for me because I am normally so distracted with multi-tasking. This time, I felt engaged enough to leave my phone in my purse much of the time.
  • Joan Malloy:  When I attended the seminar, I was struggling with some specific, critical issues related to the city’s fiscal stability that had split the council vote. The seminar reminded me that there are winners and losers in many council votes and that the majority rules.  That sounds simple and obvious, but as a city manager I work with all council members. I am trying to build relationships with council members that have been in the minority  I work for all council members and the mayor and carry out the council’s priorities, but it can be challenging when my direction (regarding city policy and priorities) is not fully supported. I also appreciated the breadth of topics at the seminar: personnel, council relations, finance/budget, etc. 

How has attending NFCM positively impacted your career?

  • Arn Andrews: It was incredibly refreshing to revalidate my belief in the public sector by witnessing the tireless passion our senior managers continue to bring to the profession.
  • Justin Hess: The seminar was a great experience learning about how to be an effective City Manager in addition to meeting and developing a broader network of colleagues in the city management profession.  It was a lot of information over a course of a weekend, but well worth it!
  • Jacqui Kitchen: I made meaningful and lasting connections, and also shared ideas on how to solve homelessness! I was so inspired that I started a private Facebook group with everyone who attended and am continuing to talk with attendees.
  • Joan Malloy: I appreciated being among peers and hearing about their own struggles and challenges.  I feel that I have established new relationships that I can use in the future. I also hope that I can serve as someone’s professional confidant when they have a challenge.

Why would you recommend NFCM to other young city managers or assistant city managers?

  • Arn Andrews: There is no other platform in the industry that provides a 5-to-1 facilitator to participant ratio and provides senior managers who collectively have over 100 years of experience as City Management professionals. To have exposure for an entire weekend to just one of the facilitators would be an amazing opportunity. But to basically have unfettered exposure to four “Yodas” of our industry for an entire weekend is extraordinary.
  • Justin Hess: NFCM is a great opportunity to get an all-access pass to learn about the city management profession and receive invaluable tips on being an effective City Manager. I would highly recommend it for someone who just became City Manager or is interested in becoming one soon.
  • Jacqui Kitchen: This is the single-most valuable seminar I have ever attended due to the one-on-one interactions, coupled with the small-group atmosphere. It really was like being away at camp and I learned so much!
  • Joan Malloy: Yes, I would recommend it. The venue was very good, the food was great, the conversations insightful, and the questions from participants during discussions were often complex and multi-faceted. I wished that there were more city managers that participated.

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