Community and Title: City Manager, City of Coachella, California
Education: MS, University of Texas, Austin; BA, St. Mary’s University; Southwest School of Government Finance, Texas Tech University; Sr. Executives Program , JFK School of Public Affairs, Harvard University; George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center, Arlington, VA.
Previous Communities and Positions: City Manager, City of Coachella, California; Team Leader-Governance & Infrastructure, Babylon Provincial Reconstruction Team, US Dept. of State/ USAID-RTI, Al Hillah, Babil, Iraq; County Manager, Yuma County, Arizona; City Manager, City of Corpus Christi, Texas; Deputy City Manager, City of Phoenix, Phoenix Arizona; Deputy Administrator, Community Redevelopment Agency, City of Los Angeles; Special Projects Director, Office of the City Manager, City of San Antonio,
Brief description of current job duties: In 2010 I returned from Iraq and was considering returning when I was offered the position of City Manager in Coachella. My duties here involve working directly with the Mayor and City Council to translate their policy direction into programs and projects. The department directors of the city report to me on a day to day basis and I work with them to insure consistent, high quality service delivery to our community. I am also responsible for preparing an annual budget for the city and monitoring expenditures during the year.
Favorite part of your job: I enjoy the variety of issues that I am faced with every day. While I have a full schedule of planned meetings, each day presents unexpected challenges that have to be addressed. Some are minor such as political problems between council members or with adjoining cities; some are major like power outages, earthquakes or civil protests. The “occupy” group has been interesting to deal with of late.
Background and pathways: My experience may seem narrow, in that I have spent my entire career in public service, but it has been varied and challenging in many ways. I have been fortunate to work in some of the most innovative and progressive organizations in the country. Phoenix has been a model for many cities and Los Angeles and San Antonio are dynamic and unique organizations. The time I spent in Iraq as part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Babil Province was a tremendous and fulfilling experience. In addition to leading a team of engineers in the rebuilding efforts, I was responsible for the Governance Team. This group organized the national elections. I also meet with various tribal Sheiks to explain to them the merits of democracy and attempted to convince them to allow their tribal member to participate. I got to work directly with the newly elected Iraqi Provincial Governor and helped him set up his office, budget, and staff. The ultimate success of our efforts is debatable but the experience was invaluable. It was also great preparation for stepping back into the City Manager business.
Family: I was born in Heidelberg Germany while my father was on active duty in the U.S. Army. He retired as a Lt. Colonel and went on to get his M.A. in Planning and serve at the Planning Director for the City of Houston. My Mother, as a Registered Nurse, had the perfect job for an army wife. Wherever we were stations she easily got a job at the base hospital or clinic. Later she went back to school and became one of the first licensed Family Nurse Practitioners in the State of Texas. My sister spent 8 years in the White House Scheduling office as one of the schedulers for President Clinton and is now completing her 4th year working in the Protocol Office of the Department of State for Secretary Clinton. I have a great 16 year old son just finishing his Junior year in high school, he has great grades, is popular out going and kind. His 8 man crew team just broke the world record for the 3,000 meter sprint. I wish I was half as together as he is when I was his age.
Current challenge: The biggest challenge I have been facing recently is the financial turmoil that exists in the State of California. We were the first state into the recession as ground zero of the sub prime mortgage and housing crisis and seem to be the last to come out. While the rest of the country seems to be in a slow recovery we are still plagued by a depressed housing and construction industry, and huge deficits at the state level. The recent elimination of the Redevelopment program by the state has caused over 400 city governments to scramble to fill significant funding gaps and caused another round of public employee layoffs and service cuts.
Who do you consider to be influential in your career and what is something you have learned from them? I have been fortunate to work with some great leaders, Tom Bradley in Los Angeles, Henry Cisneros in San Antonio, and also some stellar City Managers, Tom Huebner, Frank Fairbanks and Lou Fox, have been great role models for me. I have been fortunate to watch them under all types of conditions, some very stressful and demanding. Watching experienced, ethical managers lead their organizations through difficult, complex and sometimes dangerous issues has been the best education I could hope for, I use those skills every day.
Aspirations: Very early in my professional life I decided I wanted to be a City Manager; be careful what you wish for, you may get it.
If you had one thing you could do over again, what would it be? Don’t run as much on concrete and stay off the black diamond courses when skiing, you only get one set of knees.
Democracy at the Doorstep Impact: What do you consider to be your personal contribution to Democracy? The time in Iraq working directly on starting a new democracy was both frustrating and fulfilling.
Advice for other young professionals: Don’t be discouraged if the path you are on is dangerous, difficult, exhausting and thankless. If the job was easy they wouldn’t need you.