Lessons Learned from 2018 New & Future City Managers Seminar

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 seasoned/retired 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 2018 NFCM Seminar took place in Newport Beach in November 2018 with a cohort of 24 students:

  • Marti Brown – City Manager, City of Marysville
  • Matthew Chidester – Deputy City Manager, City of Half Moon Bay
  • Dave Christian – Assistant City Manager, City of Yorba Linda
  • David Dale – City Manager, City of Calexico
  • Oscar Delgado – Deputy City Manager, City of West Hollywood
  • Mark Delin – Assistant City Manager, City of Encinitas
  • Brian Dolan – Assistant City Manager, City of Pleasanton
  • Cynthia Fortune – Assistant City Manager, City of Grand Terrace
  • Stephanie Gilbert – City Manager, City of Willits
  • Chris Huot – Assistant City Manager, City of Bakersfield
  • Wendy Kaserman – Assistant City Manager, City of Poway
  • Kyle Knopp – City Manager, City of Rio Dell
  • Suja Lowenthal – Senior Advisor to the City Manager, City of Santa Monica
  • Tabatha Miller – City Manager, City of Fort Bragg
  • Daniel Ortiz-Hernandez – City Manager, City of Wasco
  • Stephen Parker – Assistant City Manager, City of Stanton
  • Karen Pinkos – Assistant City Manager, City of El Cerrito
  • Steven Rudolph – City Manager, City of Rocklin
  • Hannah Shin-Heydorn – Deputy City Manager, City of Signal Hill
  • Chet Simmons – Assistant City Manager, City of Westminster
  • Hans Uslar – City Manager, City of Monterey
  • Liz Warmerdam – Acting/Interim City Manager, City of Alameda
  • Eric Wier – City Manager, City of Crescent City

Below are some insights and “lessons learned” from some of the 2018 NFCM Seminar participants. If you are interested in participating in the 2019 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?

  • Marti Brown – City Manager, City of Marysville – I learned about the Seminar from Dan Keen, one of the NFCM Facilitators.
  • Hannah Shin-Heydorn – Deputy City Manager, City of Signal Hill – I first heard about the seminar from a colleague who had been accepted as part of the 2017 cohort. My application to the 2018 cohort was initiated after my City Manager forwarded me an email advertising the seminar from CCMF.
  • Chris Huot – Assistant City Manager, City of Bakersfield – About two years ago, I attended a conference at which CCMF was sponsoring a session. At that time, I was not familiar with CCMF, but took a moment to find out more about the organization. A few month later, I became a member. Through the CCMF web site and e-mail newsletters, I first learned of the NFCM Seminar. Prior to applying for the NFCM, I viewed the video testimonials on the CCMF web site and connected with Ryder Smith at a conference, who provided some valuable insight on the NFCM and the application process.

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

  • Marti Brown – I especially appreciated the informal exchanges during breaks and over dinner. It was really helpful and informative to have ample opportunity to ask questions specific to situations that I’ve encountered at work, and have the time to actual talk through them.
  • Hannah Shin-Heydorn – During the first evening’s on-site dinner, a senior manager sat at our table. He told war stories and it was helpful to hear that managers, regardless of their tenure, all have to deal with the same issues and decisions. I found the breakout sessions to be especially helpful and enlightening. The small group setting allowed for deeper discussions and the time and space to ask follow-up questions. However, I would have liked to rotate through all the senior managers in the small group setting to hear their unique perspectives.
  • Chris Huot – Because of how well the seminar is organized, there are literally countless opportunities to interact with any one of the senior managers, as well as fellow NFCM colleagues. There were several interactions that were very helpful and enlightening. During the formal sessions, I particularly enjoyed talking with Reva Feldman about work/life balance and the prioritization that should be placed on self-wellness. I also appreciated the informal discussions that took place during the breakfasts, lunches and dinners. These discussions, in many cases, were extensions of what was discussed during the formal parts of the program. These interactions allowed the other participants and me to dig deeper into various topics, with the senior managers candidly discussing the challenges and opportunities that arise throughout ones career in the field. Specifically, I appreciated Wade McKinney’s enthusiasm for the profession and willingness to discuss some of the personal aspects of the job, such as how his family was involved in career path decisions. These informal discussions proved to be equally as compelling as the formal part of the program. I appreciated the expectations that were placed on NFCM attendees to attend these activities. The seminar would not have been complete without these casual interactions.

What were some of the best pieces of advice or tips/tricks you learned during NFCM?

  • Marti Brown – I appreciated being reminded of all the “mistakes” one can make as a City Manager and having the opportunity to discuss it. I also enjoyed discussing how to treat and relate to Department Heads and other city staff. Lastly, it was really useful to leave time and space at the end of the seminar to ask a myriad of questions and/or explore scenarios that maybe did not come up and/or fit in other topic categories earlier in the seminar. Leaving time and space for that discussion was very important and valuable.
  • Hannah Shin-Heydorn – It is so important in this industry, especially as a City Manager, to develop and nurture your peer-to-peer network. A good network will include those that can mentor and counsel you, act as a sounding board, share lessons learned from their own experiences, and commiserate when needed. An observation was made by the senior managers that many City Managers who find themselves in trouble due to a bad decision or poor judgment are those that are isolated from their peers and don’t engage in their professional communities.
  • Chris Huot – It is very difficult to list the best advice I took away from the NFCM, as the entire program was extremely well organized, thought out and insightful. However, what stood out to me the most was the emphasis placed on fully understanding who you are, your career mission statement, vision and values. I find that our time is consumed with solving issues for others – such as personnel items, council projects or community concerns. The senior managers all made it clear that you must build your own foundation and clearly understand who you are as an individual and leader in order to be the most impactful to the community you serve. This topic came up several times throughout the weekend and it provided an opportunity for me to reflect on steps I can take to further define who I am and how I can continue to grow as a leader.

How do you feel attending NFCM will positively impact your career?

  • Marti Brown – In particular, the network we started to develop as a group both with senior managers and also with our classmates. It’s helpful to share experiences and gain insight from one another.
  • Hannah Shin-Heydorn – The sessions I participated in and the conversations I had with my peers throughout the seminar helped clarify my personal and professional goals and affirmed my desire to serve as a City Manager in the near future. I was also able to build upon my network and develop relationships with my peers throughout the state of California.
  • Chris Huot – As I relayed to the facilitators after the seminar concluded, I feel the NFCM seminar to be one of the most impactful events I’ve attended during my 11 years in city government. The seminar gave me tangible insight into the areas I need to consider prior to deciding if I want to pursue a city manager position. The practical insight into contract negotiations, recruitments and council relations was comprehensive and outstanding. The lessons learned and the relationships developed at the NFCM seminar will play an important role as my career progresses. The NFCM seminar should be mandatory for all assistant city managers and new city managers!

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

  • Marti Brown – It’s a great opportunity to gain further insight into the profession and what makes it unique and different from other “City Hall positions.” It also gives you a real taste of whether this is something you would want to pursue as a profession or career if you’re not already sure about the choice.
  • Hannah Shin-Heydorn – NFCM provides you with the dedicated time, space, and resources to explore what it means to be a City Manager and to make professional connections. You have 48 hours with your peers and senior managers and no topic is off limits. You have the opportunity to engage with a broad spectrum of your peers in a gathering devoted to your professional and personal development.
  • Chris Huot – Simply put, the structure of the NFCM seminar is unlike any other city management event I have attended. The topics that are covered, along with the willingness of the senior managers to be open about all aspects of their careers make this seminar a must for individuals that are on track to become (or recently have become) a city manager. Academic learning and work experience lay important groundwork for career development, however it does not prepare you for several of the topics presented by the senior managers. It is this unique and unmatched insight that is provided at the NFCM that will make me strongly recommend the seminar to aspiring or new city managers.

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