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 2022 NFCM Seminar took place in Pasadena from November 4-6. A cohort of 23 local government professionals attended the workshop.
- Michael Antwine – City Manager, City of Bell
- Matthew Chidester – City Manager, City of Half Moon Bay
- Anil Comelo – City Manager, City of St. Helena
- Dante Hall – City Manager, City of Hercules
- John Holt – City Manager, City of Clovis
- Pamela Wu – City Manager, City of Cupertino
- Karina Banales – Deputy City Manager, City of Rancho Palos Verdes
- Peter Castro – Deputy City Manager, City of Indian Wells
- Angela Crespi – Deputy City Manager, City of Hermosa Beach
- Cristine Alilovich – Assistant City Manager, City of San Rafael
- Carl Alameda – Assistant City Manager, City of La Canada Flintridge
- Melissa Burke – Assistant City Manager, City of Artesia
- Alexa Davis – Assistant City Manager, City of Rolling Hills Estates
- Jessica Deakyne – Assistant City Manager, City of Novato
- Vaniah DeRojas – Acting Assistant City Manager, City of Downey
- Jorge Garcia – Assistant City Manager, City of Pismo Beach
- Maxine Gullo – Assistant City Administrator, City of Carmel by the Sea
- Kathy Kleinbaum – Assistant City Manager, City of San Mateo
- Maria Lara – Assistant City Manager, City of Wasco
- Patrick Martinez – Assistant City Manager/Development Services, City of Needles
- Joseph Toney – Assistant City Manager, City of Malibu
- Michelle D’Anna – Assistant to the City Manager, City of Camarillo
- Larissa De La Cruz – Senior Manager – Community Development, City of Lancaster
Four of the 2022 NFCM participants shared their takeaways with us below. If you are interested in participating in the 2023 New & Future City Managers Seminar, stay tuned to the NFCM Seminar webpage for more information.
How did you first hear about the New & Future City Managers (NFCM) Seminar?
- John Holt – City Manager, City of Clovis: I have been a member of the CCMF for probably 10 years. I have heard of NFCM each year. When the last Clovis city manager was selected, I lobbied to get him into the class at the last minute and CCMF was able to accommodate.
- Pamela Wu – City Manager, City of Cupertino: I first learned about the NFCM Seminar after I was appointed by Cupertino City Council. Immediately after my appointment, I was getting overwhelming support from CCMF and other city managers wishing me the very best. Ken Pulskamp from CCMF sent me a personal email invite to the organization and program. Once I started, neighboring cities’ city managers all highly recommended this seminar.
- Jessica Deakyne – Assistant City Manager, City of Novato: CCMF has been on my radar since seeing an announcement in an MMANC newsletter 8 years ago. When I let Reva Feldman know I was considering going, her enthusiasm for the program – and the fact that she was a facilitator! – was a huge push to my attending, and I am honored to have attended this Fall’s 2022 cohort.
- Cristine Alilovich – Assistant City Manager, City of San Rafael: I first heard about the seminar from the city manager of San Rafael, Jim Schutz. Jim encouraged me to attend in my preparation to apply for a city manager position one day. He felt it was a pivotal professional development experienced in his own career.
Were there particular interactions you had with senior managers that were especially helpful?
- John Holt – City Manager, City of Clovis: I now have one year into the city manager position and find that the saying that “it is lonely at the top” is true. I have a different relationship with my former peers when I was assistant city manager. It was good to hear we are not alone and that we should be reaching out for guidance, feedback and mentoring when a particular issue surfaces to the top. Reva sharing stories about what she went through with fires in Malibu resonated.
- Pamela Wu – City Manager, City of Cupertino: Yes, I was very grateful to get to know Dan Keens, Karen Pinkos and Howard Chen, especially on a more private and personal level and to understand their struggles and challenges as seasoned city managers who face the same issues as I do as a newbie city manager. Their openness and willingness to help and to guide my path to success is beyond words. Most of all, the comfort of knowing that I am not in this alone and that there is a huge network of support throughout the region, the state (and even the country) was phenomenal.
- Jessica Deakyne – Assistant City Manager, City of Novato: It is rare that those developing our careers get to see what city management is truly like in other cities. Our scope is typically a myopic view of the challenges in our own towns and cities. CCMF’s NFCM Seminar provides unprecedented access to current and former city leaders who are deeply committed to ensuring that the next generation of leaders in California are best prepared to take on city management leadership roles. This type of unfettered access with city leaders who share my passion for public service was exciting and galvanizing for me.
- Cristine Alilovich – Assistant City Manager, City of San Rafael: Hearing first-hand stories from experienced managers about their most difficult experiences and how they overcame them was incredibly impactful for me. Their stories articulated the unique challenges that the city manager faces, which are different from those of the executive team members or assistant/deputy city manager. In particular, it was very helpful to get a “behind the scenes” look at the nature of the relationships between the City Council members and the city manager. It helped me form a deeper understanding of how challenging it can be to consistently attend to the relationship with each Council member, while running the organization and being responsive to the community, all at the same time.
What were some of the best pieces of advice or tips you’re bringing back to your city from NFCM?
- John Holt – City Manager, City of Clovis: Communicate more with my council. I meet weekly when they can. Things are generally pretty quiet in the city I manage. My council is part time. They are very low maintenance and often do not feel a need to meet on a regular basis. I am now scheduling weekly meetings for more face time and to allow some of my staff to attend for more exposure.
- Pamela Wu – City Manager, City of Cupertino: One big takeaway is to recognize that Councilmembers are also humans. The job of a city manager is to build relationships with the Council, the city team and the community. Also, it’s OK to be vulnerable. After all, we are all human.
- Jessica Deakyne – Assistant City Manager, City of Novato: During the Seminar I kept a sheet of lists: one list of what I’d like to learn to round out my resume for future city manager applications, one for things I wanted to ask our city manager about his job to help me get a deeper understanding of challenges he faces and one for what Novato might be able to glean from the other cities represented at the seminar. I rarely have this much time for self-reflection and just being at the seminar helped me think through how I want to spend the next few years. I invest in my networking already through MMANC and ICMA, but the CCMF NFCM Seminar helped me connect to other professionals throughout California. I’m planning on submitting a conference session with a new friend from Southern California. I’ve connected one friend to a job opportunity, and I plan to reach out to some of my Bay Area attendees to keep those connections strong.
- Cristine Alilovich – Assistant City Manager, City of San Rafael: Some of the best advice I received was also about the city manager and City Council member relationships: 1) Always give the City Council members the credit and acknowledgement they deserve, both publicly and one-on-one. 2) Don’t get in the middle of a conflict amongst council members. Be mindful not to take sides. You don’t have to step in an solve a conflict between them – it’s often best to keep an “arm’s length” from it and offer suggestions about how they might find a common ground and work it out with one another or with the help of a neutral party (i.e., city attorney). 3) Be mindful to spend an equitable amount of time/attention with each Council member.
How has attending NFCM positively impacted your career?
- John Holt – City Manager, City of Clovis: I know this sounds bad, but when I heard some of the stories from the other cities, I had to admit I have it pretty good. A good sense of perspective helps right the ship when you tend to dwell on your minor challenges that we all have.
- Pamela Wu – City Manager, City of Cupertino: Since the program, I have immediately joined many other related associations and gotten much more involved with other city managers. Not only do I wish to expand the network of support, but also to share my experiences to the aspiring and up and coming city managers. I want to be of any assistance to those who were in my path.
- Jessica Deakyne – Assistant City Manager, City of Novato: Prior to attending the seminar I would become visibly uncomfortable when someone would ask me if my plan is to eventually become a city manager. When I returned home, my city manager remarked that it was the first time he’d heard me definitively say “WHEN I am a city manager,” not “IF.” Spending the time reflecting on my career and the profession brought me some peace around feeling like I am right where I need to be.
- Cristine Alilovich – Assistant City Manager, City of San Rafael: The time spent having candid conversations and learning from my peers, as well as the facilitators, was incredibly helpful in my preparation for an upcoming city manager recruitment. It helped me feel more prepared and confident about the interview process, and I know now that I have a whole group of professionals who I can lean on for support in my current role, as well as in the future.
Why would you recommend NFCM to other young city managers or assistant city managers?
- John Holt – City Manager, City of Clovis: The interaction with the senior managers is a refreshing and invigorating experience that all new and future city managers should experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the intense 48-hour interaction that flew by.
- Pamela Wu – City Manager, City of Cupertino: It’s fun (especially because it was the getaway weekend before the election) in beautiful Pasadena!
- Jessica Deakyne – Assistant City Manager, City of Novato: I would highly recommend the NFCM for deputy and assistant city managers. It is such a nice scope on what the next role looks like for us, and I truly feel like I can call the facilitators and cohort members. The multiple facilitators, without really being obvious about it, helped me walk away with the revelation that there are different styles of leadership – none of them show up the same in their communities. As someone who often feels like I don’t look or talk or act like people at the tables where decisions are made, it’s nice to know there will be a space for people like me in public service; and I hope that many of the others who attended walked away feeling similarly welcome in our field.
- Cristine Alilovich – Assistant City Manager, City of San Rafael: I would recommend the seminar because it provides an opportunity to get a genuine first-hand account of what the life of a city manager is really like. The city manager role is not for the faint of heart, and our profession needs leadership at all levels. It is incredibly important for those seeking this role to have the opportunity to learn in a safe and supportive environment so that we can make the best decisions for us and our families about our readiness, timing, and “fit” for this particular role.