The annual New & Future City Managers Seminar (NFCM) is one of several ways that the California City Management Foundation (CCMF) 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 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 2023 NFCM Seminar took place in Pasadena from November 8-10. A cohort of 19 local government professionals attended the workshop.
Andrew Haussler – Assistant City Manager, City of Clovis
Andrew Keys – Interim City Manager, City of Lodi
Angela Cho – Assistant to the City Manager, City of Monrovia
Anita D. Gutierrez – Director of Development Services Department, City of Pomona
Danny Santana – Assistant City Manager, City of Torrance
Domenica Megerdichian – Deputy City Manager, City of South Pasadena
George Gabriel – Assistant to the City Manager, City of Manhattan Beach
Gerry Beaudin – City Manager, City of Pleasanton
John Conley – City Manager, City of Vista
Jonathan Royas – Assistant City Manager, City of Santa Paula
Justin Martin – Assistant City Manager, City of Laguna Niguel
Justin Tucker – Assistant City Manager, City of Corona
Marlene Subhashini – Assistant City Manager / Community Development Director, City of Foster City
Matt Morley – Assistant City Manager / Public Works Director, City of Cupertino
Melvin Gaines – City Manager, City of East Palo Alto
Rene Eyerly – Assistant City Administrator, City of Santa Barbara
Richard Rojas – Deputy City Manager, City of Norwalk
Robert Lopez – City Manager, City of Cerritos
Tony Comargo – Assistant to the City Manager, City of Victorville
Four of the 2023 NFCM participants shared their takeaways with us below. If you are interested in participating in the 2024 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?
Danny Santana – Assistant City Manager, City of Torrance – I learned about the NFCM seminar while reading CCMF’s weekly e-newsletter. It’s always been a helpful source of information, updates and opportunities for training, support and the goings-on in the California city management world.
Andrew Keys – Interim City Manager, City of Lodi – When the previous city manager in Lodi announced his retirement, I began talking to city managers I knew about my interest in the position. CCMF was recommended as a very practical resource for all things. The NCFM Seminar was particularly highlighted by these managers so I jumped on the opportunity to sign up. Unfortunately, my appointment to Interim CM in Lodi coincided with the registration deadline, but I was able to reach out to CCMF who accommodated given my circumstances.
Gerry Beaudin – City Manager, City of Pleasanton – I was at a CalCities conference several years ago and heard colleagues talking about the program. Even though I had been appointed city manager in Pleasanton for over a year, I still had the seminar on my radar and decided to apply this year when I learned more about the stellar list of facilitators the program was able to bring together.
Rene Eyerly – Assistant City Administrator, City of Santa Barbara – I joined CCMF not long after becoming assistant city administrator, and was eager to apply to the seminar last year, but had a conflict. My city administrator, Rebecca Bjork, attended her first year in the job and highly recommended that I attend.
Domenica Megerdichian – Deputy City Manager, City of South Pasadena – I had learned about the NFCM Seminar early in my career through a CCMF publication, and I had applied years ago. Now, as a more seasoned professional, the timing was right, and my City Manager, Arminé Chaparyan, who knows and has worked with CCMF Board members and leadership, shared with me further about this opportunity and told me, “apply, and get in!” CCMF and this seminar are known and revered as a true resource to public sector professionals throughout the State, I knew I had to pursue this experience!
Were there particular interactions you had with senior managers that were especially helpful?
Danny Santana – Assistant City Manager, City of Torrance – I found each session to be informative and what I particularly appreciated was the ‘stories from the field’ each facilitator shared from their experiences to illustrate lessons learned and potential approaches the cohort could take when likely encountering something similar now or in the future. Attendees were able to engage with facilitators and each other about the topics being covered and it led to very impactful discussions.
Andrew Keys – Interim City Manager, City of Lodi – I was blessed to share a flight with Howard Chan from Sacramento to Burbank. His insight on council/manager relations, maintaining consistency in communication, having difficult conversations and understanding how to say no or push back tactfully while building up personal capital was worth more than the price of admission. By the time I got to the Seminar, I was full of incredibly useful insight into the profession.
Gerry Beaudin – City Manager, City of Pleasanton – It was a pleasure to spend a few days with folks who are so passionate about the profession and public service. Their enthusiasm, focus and dedication to city management is infectious. Being able to engage in the sessions and enjoy meals with the senior managers is such a treat – there are plenty of practical tips about how to do the work.
Rene Eyerly – Assistant City Administrator, City of Santa Barbara – Overall, this is the most valuable career development opportunity I’ve had. It’s hard to choose which interactions were most impactful. I am grateful for the generosity of the senior managers in the frankness of the conversations we had in the group discussions, at meals and in private. The thought and preparation for each of the sessions was evident. I particularly appreciated the thoughtfulness that each of the senior managers gave to my questions and having time at meals and breaks to dive deeper into specifics was priceless.
Domenica Megerdichian – Deputy City Manager, City of South Pasadena – The city managers and board members who contribute their time and leadership to this program are open, honest and true resources to the cohort – some up-and-comers may not have such access to leaders in the industry. Personal experiences shared, no-limits questions asked, specific situations discussed with both the presenters as well as the cohort, this is indispensable to anyone trying to navigate their new role or next prepare to pursue or plan for their next step in city management.
What were some of the best pieces of advice or tips you’re bringing back to your city from NFCM?
Danny Santana – Assistant City Manager, City of Torrance – The importance of establishing proper communication lines with both policymakers and labor associations. It takes both, and then some, to effectively advance a community’s priorities.
Andrew Keys – Interim City Manager, City of Lodi – 1. City Managers need to get out of the office! Senior managers’ schedules are significantly weighted towards relationship building, meeting the community, the council and staff at their worksites. 2. Being able to see the City through the council’s eyes is critical. Obviously managers need a good relationship with councilmembers. Even more important is for the manager to know how the council sees the City. 3. Managers need to get comfortable being uncomfortable! To be good takes tough conversations up, down and sideways.
Gerry Beaudin – City Manager, City of Pleasanton – There were so many practical takeaways for me as a participant in the program – the job can be challenging, but it is also rewarding! When things get difficult, there is a great group of people who have been there and done that. And that same group has a range of ideas about how to get things done and build an amazing organizational culture. Ask Reva Feldman about bringing puppies to work!
Rene Eyerly – Assistant City Administrator, City of Santa Barbara – I really enjoyed the conversation about ways to not just keep the Mayor and Council informed, but how to get to know them and what they care about. We can’t over communicate, and a couple of ideas that resonated with me were taking individual tours of the city with the Councilmembers, and making sure one time per month to have lunch or something social outside of City Hall. Those are both great ways to build relationships with each of them, and also see the City through their eyes and priorities.
Domenica Megerdichian – Deputy City Manager, City of South Pasadena – Some of the best advice and tips that have stayed with me include best practices in evaluations and contract negotiations, conversations around how to navigate a changing industry and the importance of mentorship and network at the top. That, and the refreshing experience of networking and getting to know all the individuals involved with this program and cohort— everyone showed up, everyone contributed to this dynamic experience and everyone walked away better for having had this experience.
How has attending NFCM positively impacted your career?
Danny Santana – Assistant City Manager, City of Torrance – My attendance allowed me to establish connections with new and future city managers throughout the state. I appreciated learning about what drew them to public service and their career evolutions.
Andrew Keys – Interim City Manager, City of Lodi – Attending the NCFM has given me a deeper appreciation that I am not alone in the pressures I feel and difficulties I face. There is a group of professionals, both current and future, that face these challenges and are there when I need them. There are only so many people who understand what being a city manager entails and until you are in the role, you never quite know what it encompasses. Having a broader network of managers who “get it” is invaluable.
Gerry Beaudin – City Manager, City of Pleasanton – I would say the program has helped me in two ways: 1. expanded my network – I was able to grow my network AND strengthen it. I now have a larger group of peers and senior managers that I can reach out to. I knew several of the facilitators before the program, but now feel like I know them better and they are all open to a phone call; and 2. New tools and techniques – hearing from seasoned managers about how they have built culture, fostered relationships and navigated during challenging situations has provided me with new and different ideas as I approach city management.
Rene Eyerly – Assistant City Administrator, City of Santa Barbara – Well, I now have 28 colleagues and friends who know what it’s like to be a city manager, or think they’d like to be one. Having a group of people who understand the joys and challenges of working in the city manager’s office, and who are there to support and cheer each other on is fantastic. Also, hearing everyone’s stories of how they’ve gotten to their position was affirming that every path is different. It also reinforced that my strengths are assets, and I will continue to learn but approach the work in a way that is authentic to me.
Domenica Megerdichian – Deputy City Manager, City of South Pasadena – The connections made in my NFCM cohort are sure to be lasting relationships with individuals who I knew on a more superficial level, or had not had the opportunity to cross paths with otherwise. I’ve had the distinct benefit of having amazing leaders and mentors throughout my career and I can count these folks among my mentors and peers now, too. The information shared and the honest dialogue is refreshing and so necessary to help guide and mentor each other in our professional and even personal growth as we prepare for and seek that next step in our careers.
Why would you recommend NFCM to other young city managers or assistant city managers?
Danny Santana – Assistant City Manager, City of Torrance – Imagine a couple centuries worth of facilitator experiences and self-reflection being openly shared to make you better; that’s what my fellow seminar attendees and I were able to experience. Thank you CCMF for such a valuable resource and self-reflection opportunity.
Andrew Keys – Interim City Manager, City of Lodi – There is no better way to learn than from those who are doing it. There is no better way to learn than from actively participating, openly sharing your experiences and having vertical conversations with mentors and horizontal conversations with peers. The NCFM is uniquely developed to accomplish these objectives. At the same time, the facilitators help provide realistic expectations of the demands the position places on your personal life that you will not get in other forums. If you are thinking about being a city manager, this is the best way to prepare.
Gerry Beaudin – City Manager, City of Pleasanton – Yes, I would highly recommend the Seminar! It is a unique and focused way to gain a lot of insight from seasoned managers and peers. In just a couple of days you’re able to meet new people, create an actionable list of things that will help you do the job better and hear about and learn from common mistakes. For those who aren’t in the city manager role yet, you’ll get to know more about the personal and professional pros and cons of the job.
Rene Eyerly – Assistant City Administrator, City of Santa Barbara – I truly felt immersed into the real world of the city manager by the end of the seminar. The seminar crystalized what I’ve been learning on the job and gave me insights that I didn’t know I needed. I learned so much, had fun and met incredible people dedicated to the profession and their communities.
Domenica Megerdichian – Deputy City Manager, City of South Pasadena – I’m a proponent and advocate of this program and what it seeks to contribute to the city management in California. The access to leaders in the industry and the emerging best practices they share, the connections made with new and up-and-comer city managers and administrators as a network, and the professional and personal growth and development that happens in a few short days are indispensable. I have already suggested to colleagues who are up-and-comers that they must pursue this opportunity, and will connect with leadership about how I can pay it forward to support this program.