What inspired you to enter city management?

My family has a long history of public service. My dad worked in state government for 30 years in Michigan, and my sister and brother both served in the military. I always wanted to be in public service as well. I began my career in a state senator’s office in Michigan right out of college, but quickly decided I would rather be in local government to directly serve the community where I lived and see the work come to fruition faster.

How did you become a City Manager?

Not easily! I had 18 interviews over the course of 15 years for city manager positions in Michigan and California before finally being successful as the Council’s choice for City Manager in Encinitas. As many recruiters say, it’s all about the right fit at the right time. Encinitas was finally the right fit for me!

What do you enjoy the most about your role?

I love the variety of topics and operations that we manage in local government. From public safety to parks and recreation, there are so many exciting things always going on. From the position perspective, I like being in control of the timing of policy items on the agenda and working with the Council Members to help them achieve their vision and goals for the community.

What role does a City Manager play in local government, and how do you feel it differs from that of a Council Member or Mayor?

I’m old school when it comes to the role of the Council vs. the role of the City Manager. The Mayor and Council set the policy direction and the City Manager makes sure that policy is properly implemented. In other words, they come up with the idea and we make sure it gets done!

What does your typical day look like?

I typically spend the early morning reviewing emails and documents. Mid-mornings, I have meetings with City Council Members and other stakeholders. Most of my afternoons are spent with my executive team. Of course, this varies, but I try to keep my schedule routine to reduce the level of chaos that is created when I don’t have a plan for my day.

What city project are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the completion of the Encinitas/El Portal Undercrossing that we cut the ribbon for this year and the related Leucadia Streetscape Project. These projects will improve the Old Highway 101 from our border with Carlsbad to our downtown. The improvements completed so far have modernized the area and have brought more mobility for cyclists, walkers, runners and strollers with new sidewalks, protected bike lanes, beautiful landscaping and walking paths!

What are the greatest challenges facing City Managers in the state today?

From a policy perspective, lack of affordable housing and the growing homeless population in the state that desperately need services and not enough funding to assist. From a management perspective, the increasing level of civil discourse spilling over to cities is challenging. People became more frustrated with government during the pandemic and lashing out at the local level at cities and schools has noticeably increased.

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

As a mid-size City, I am very accessible to residents. I find that post the height of the pandemic, most of my contact with residents is now electronic rather than in-person meetings. I spend a lot of time on Zoom with stakeholder and business groups, as well as homeowners’ associations, etc. Although, I do still seem to hold a lot of meetings in the grocery store aisleway!

What is the role of a City Manager in upholding the public’s trust in local government?

Our role as Managers is to provide unbiased, politically neutral recommendations on public policy, but let’s be real. We work in a more politically charged environment in local government these days. So, we need to be politically astute (political with a small ‘p’) rather than political like the elected officials (political with a capital ‘P’). Recognizing the politics in the community to ensure people are heard and included is the key.

How are cities shaping the future of California?

Local government and in particular, cities, is where the rubber meets the road. We are on the frontlines and making things happen for communities to thrive. For example, when Congress passes infrastructure funding, we make sure we have projects designed and ready to get those dollars into our communities to update outdated roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. Another example is when the pandemic hit, it was local government that helped push out interpretations of ever-changing health requirements in layman’s terms so people could makes sense of all the rules/regulations. Bottom line? We are tackling the everyday problems of most people in a way that makes a difference in people’s lives.