What inspired you to enter city management?

From a young age, my interest in local government was sparked. The influence of my parents, who were dedicated public servants as educators, played a pivotal role in inspiring my journey into city management. Growing up in an environment where public service and civic engagement were highly valued instilled in me a profound sense of responsibility and a genuine desire to contribute to the well-being of my community. Having parents who were educators provided a firsthand view of the importance of public service and exposed me to the significance of active community involvement. Witnessing their work’s impactful role in shaping others’ lives became a powerful motivation for me to pursue a similar path—one where I could make a positive difference through the avenues of local government and city management. I have a servant leadership style that prioritizes the well-being and development of my team members by focusing on their needs. I see myself as a coach who helps encourage and support my employees, and that helped contribute to my choosing to be a city manager because I have the opportunity to build a team to achieve the common goals of the community.

How did you become a city manager?

Embarking on the journey to become a city manager, my career in local government has evolved through a robust background in policy, planning, and real estate development. This multidimensional foundation has played a crucial role in effectively addressing every community’s diverse development and economic needs.

My professional journey began as a development director for the city of Needles in 2017, a pivotal role that immersed me in the intricacies of policy formulation, urban planning and the dynamic world of real estate development. Recognizing the essential role these elements play in fostering community growth, I deeply understood the interconnectedness between physical layout, economic aspirations and the enhancement of city services.

Subsequently, I was promoted to assistant city manager, where I oversaw the development services department and assumed additional responsibilities as required by the city manager. This progression was facilitated by the guidance and mentorship of my predecessor, who took me under his wing, supporting my professional growth and positioning me as the leading candidate for the position upon his retirement. I assumed the role in October of 2023, after my predecessor was in the role for ten years. I didn’t just want to be a city manager for any city; I wanted to be the city manager for the community where I raised my children.

In addition to my hands-on experience, my educational journey has fortified my role as a city manager. Having pursued formal education at the University of Southern California, I earned a Bachelor of Science in public policy and real estate development, a master’s degree in urban planning, and a master’s certificate in real estate development. Complementing these academic credentials, I completed certification programs at California State University, Fresno, through the California Association for Local Economic Development. Furthermore, I am recognized as an Accredited California Economic Developer. Additional qualifications include a master’s Certificate from ICMA for their High-Performance Leadership Course and completion of the Stanford Local Summer Institute Class of 2023. These credentials collectively empower me with theoretical knowledge and practical insights, enabling me to adeptly navigate and address the multifaceted challenges inherent in city management.

What do you enjoy most about being a city manager?

Nestled on the eastern edge of the Mohave Desert, where California converges with Arizona and Nevada, lies the city of Needles—a small, remote, and rural community often dubbed the East Coast of California. Serving as the gateway to California along the I-40 from Arizona, our city holds a distinctive position with its unique geography and landscape.

Despite facing challenges in our economically disadvantaged community, I consider myself fortunate to be an integral part of this special place. In my role as city manager, I find immense satisfaction in actively contributing to the economic growth of the city of Needles. This position provides me with a valuable platform to attract businesses, foster job creation and drive economic development, ultimately enhancing the prosperity of our community. Daily, I encounter complex challenges, and I thoroughly enjoy problem-solving; the roles provide ample opportunities to address infrastructure, public services and community development issues.

Every day, I dedicate myself to the noble cause of improving the quality of life for our residents. It’s a privilege to work towards creating a more vibrant and thriving environment, and I take pride in the positive impact we can collectively make on the lives of those who call the city of Needles home.

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?

In the intricate framework of local government, the city manager assumes a pivotal role often likened to being the mechanic, as my
predecessor aptly put it. While the City Council establishes the overarching goals for the city, it becomes the city manager’s responsibility to adeptly lead a team and cultivate a collaborative work environment to bring these objectives to fruition.

My role as a conductor is orchestrating the efforts of a dedicated team to align with the vision set by the City Council. Working collectively towards the common goals outlined by the Council is a professional obligation and a personally rewarding endeavor. The ultimate aim is to enhance the quality of life for residents and contribute significantly to the city’s overall well-being.

In contrast to the roles of Council Members and Mayors, who are instrumental in goal-setting and policy formulation, a city manager is focused on translating these objectives into actionable plans. The emphasis lies in execution, ensuring that the strategies devised collectively contribute tangibly to the community’s advancement. It is both a privilege and a responsibility to guide this process, ensuring that the city’s goals align seamlessly with the needs and aspirations of its residents.

What does a typical day look like?

During a typical day, a significant part of my role involves ensuring that the City Council is well-informed about pertinent events unfolding within our community. This is particularly crucial when anticipating community inquiries. I proactively engage with my department heads, fostering open discussions about ongoing projects and collaboratively addressing any challenges they may encounter.

A key aspect of my day is also dedicated to addressing unforeseen issues that “walk in through the door.” I’ve come to appreciate that it’s not merely the meetings we plan for but, more significantly, the impromptu discussions and concerns that unexpectedly arise. These unplanned interactions often require immediate attention and a thoughtful, responsive approach.

My daily routine revolves around maintaining a constant flow of communication with the City Council, collaborating with department heads to navigate ongoing projects and being readily available to address the unanticipated matters that inevitably emerge. This adaptive and hands-on approach ensures that I am attuned to the pulse of our city, enabling me to effectively lead and respond to the evolving needs of our community.

What city project are you most proud of?

In October 2023, I assumed the role of the city manager. It only took three months before I worked with my council to declare a citywide emergency. On January 23, 2024, city staff faced a significant challenge when the city’s only pharmacy announced its closure. This posed a severe concern for the 3,000 Medi-Cal patients (2,300 IEHP Patients) who relied on Rite-Aid for their pharmaceutical needs over the past two years. To provide context, Needles has a population of 5,200, with 33% of the residents over 55 and over half receiving government subsidies. The City Council took decisive action on January 30, 2024, by formally adopting Resolution No. 2024-7, declaring a Local Emergency in response to the pharmacy closure. This resolution empowers the city manager to proactively seek essential goods, services and mutual aid from neighboring local agencies, the county of San Bernardino and the state of California. The strategic initiative is designed to ensure the swift acquisition of abundant resources to address the immediate emergency, facilitating the procurement of aid and services. This ensures that residents of Needles maintain uninterrupted access to critical medications and essential goods and services. Through a collaborative effort and a cross-agency initiative, city staff successfully worked with the private sector to establish five pharmacies in Arizona that are now accepting Medi- Cal patients, with one that will deliver to Needles. This proactive approach has enabled us to address the needs of our residents swiftly and effectively. I also utilized our Needles Area Transit Service to have a bus go into Arizona twice a week to provide residents who do not have transportation access to their pharmaceutical needs.

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

  • Homelessness
  • Housing Affordability and Availability
  • CBRT Ballot Measure (California Business Roundtable)
  • Budgetary Constraints
  • Infrastructure Maintenance and Upgrades

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

Every day, I engage with the residents of my community, whether it’s at a Chamber breakfast or a local high school basketball game. Living within my community offers a unique perspective, allowing me to comprehend the real- life impacts of city council decisions fully. Beyond my role, personal connections also contribute to this understanding — my wife is an elementary school teacher, my mother recently retired as the superintendent of Needles Unified School District and my stepfather serves on The Palo Verde Community College Board of Trustees.

In our vibrant small town, brimming with activities, each day provides ample opportunities for interaction. We’ve established a community calendar, ensuring that all active organizations have a chance to celebrate and connect. Whether it’s housing elements, general plan updates or public engagement for grant opportunities, we consistently bring the community together to actively participate in the decision-making process.

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

Maintaining a transparent civic environment hinges on the crucial role of a city manager in building and preserving the public’s trust. I often emphasize that clear communication is the linchpin to establishing and nurturing this trust. Upon assuming the city manager role, I prioritized weekly updates to keep the public well-informed about city events. Whether detailing park construction progress, addressing ongoing emergencies or providing storm preparation tips, the goal was to offer clear and accessible information through a weekly city managers memo. This proactive approach not only holds the city manager and staff accountable but also showcases our active
engagement with the community.

During recent emergencies, open and transparent communication became paramount. I recognized the importance of accuracy and clarity in our messages, ensuring that the public received timely information during challenging times. This commitment to transparency fostered trust and underscored our dedication to keeping the community well-informed and resilient in the face of adversity.

How has being awarded the Executive Education Grant helped better your skills in the city management profession?

As I progress in my city manager career, I reflect on the pivotal role the Executive Education Grant played that enabled my participation in the 2023 Local Governance Summer Institute at Stanford University. This experience has not only propelled me to the next level but was made possible through the valuable support of the CCMF Scholarship. Operating within a constrained budget, the city of Needles encounters distinctive financial challenges, defined by its economically resilient spirit. The financial support from CCMF has opened doors that would have otherwise been inaccessible, providing crucial opportunities for our city. Participating in the LGSI has connected me with a network of seasoned city managers and exposed me to innovative problem-solving approaches, leadership skills and strategic thinking essential for navigating the evolving landscape of technological and environmental changes. The experience further provided personal and professional development opportunities through mentorship and coaching.

In a short span, CCMF has enriched my knowledge and connected me with a community of professionals with whom I share a lasting bond. I am deeply grateful for the support that has significantly shaped my career, and I look forward to continued growth and collaboration.

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