What inspired you to enter city management?

I interviewed for a financing firm serving local government staffed by former city managers and finance directors.  I interviewed with six principles of the firm and each of them pointed to pictures on their wall or referenced projects they regularly used, drove on or by, that were delivered using proceeds from bonds they had helped issue.  The common thread between their answers was a drive to make a tangible impact in communities and on people’s lives.  As a young professional I was attracted by this ability to make a real and visible difference in a community.  I think there are few professions with the ability to make as big of a difference in people’s lives as a city manager.

How did you become an interim city manager?

I came though the finance and budget ranks. Knowing the budget gave me entry to many important planning conversations within my City. This gave me access to volunteer for key assignments outside my normal scope or job description. After serving in every capacity in my previous agency within traditional finance, revenue, development financing and budget, I was promoted to a deputy city manager/internal services director in Lodi. I served in that capacity for seven years before being appointed interim city manager in October 2023.

What do you enjoy the most about your role?

I enjoy the variety. Each day is different. Each project and challenge presented has unique stakeholders and components that fit into a larger strategic picture. Being involved in decision making that advance the City’s interest within that bigger picture is exciting.

What role does a city manager play in local government, and how do you feel it differs from that of a councilmember or mayor?

The city manager’s primary role is to foster trust in local government. Councilmembers set policy and create the vision for the City and want results on that vision quickly. City managers execute that vision and are directly responsible to get things done. In that, it is paramount to create an environment within the community where residents feel they have access to City services, have their opinions and concerns heard with an open mind and feel they are part of the process. When residents are respected and heard at all levels of city government, it fosters trust and helps the city to gain support for new initiatives.

What does your typical day look like?

There really isn’t a typical day. Meetings with Council, staff and residents are common as are regular trips to various employee work sites to ensure they feel valued. Everyday is filled with relationship building and problem solving, the two most critical skills for a manager to have. The variety is exciting and keeps me freshly engaged each day.

What city project are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the improved relationship between the City and the County resulting in San Joaquin County’s first ever standing 40% City/60% County property tax sharing agreement for new annexations which doubled Lodi’s future revenue share. Multiple administrations on both sides had fought over this issue resulting in a stalemate that prevented the City from growing. There was an unwillingness to even come to the table. Taking an open mind and working openly with the new county administrator I was able to negotiate a deal for the first time in over a decade that doubled Lodi’s share of future tax revenue from growth.

What are the greatest challenges facing city managers in the state today?

I think the greatest challenge facing city managers today is political polarization and a growing mistrust in government driven by shortcomings at the state and federal level. Our state in particular has continuously made the job of running a City more challenging though costly regulation and legislation with significant unfunded requirements and negative externalities that we as City’s are required to come up with solutions for. From electrification, to housing, to homelessness to decriminalization, well intentioned legislatures have altered the environment in which city managers have to operate.

When and how do you interact with the residents of your city?

Responsiveness to residents is key. It is also important to proactively communicate. Weekly I prepare a city manager’s newsletter that is posted to our website a social media updating residents of key projects, updates and events in the City. Speaking at service clubs and participating in organized meetings such as at the Chamber of Commerce and responding to public inquiry are also important.

 What is the role of a city manager in upholding the public’s trust in local government?

The city manager’s role is to establish processes to ensure the public is heard and has information needed to feel confident the City is well run. This runs from processes to obtain public input on critical initiatives from the budget to major policy change, to providing basic information about traffic control or event street closures to responding timely and adequately to a residents concerns on their utility bill. In times of crises, the city manager must ensure the City is open, honest, admits to any wrongdoing from the organization and transparently develops solutions to ensure the City preforms better in the future.

How are cities shaping the future of California?

Cities are at the forefront of the homeless crisis, economic development, responding to climate change and are the closet form of government to the people. Cities solve the problems identified or created by other layers of government. Cities are shaping California by ensuring continued and sustainable access to housing, water, electricity and safe communities. I am proud to be a part of that.