Executive Interview with Izzy Murguia

Izzy Murguia is the 2020 President of the Municipal Management Association of Southern California (MMASC) as well as the Senior Management Analyst for the Public Works Department at the City of Poway. We sat down with him to hear more about his hopes for the future of MMASC as well as some of the challenges the organization has overcome.

What got you involved in local government?

I took an urban government course in graduate school, and the class was taught by a city auditor and a city treasurer. At that time I was pursuing a PhD in U.S. political history, and those professors opened up my eyes to the world of local government. I really point to that experience as my launching point into local government.

I’ve always had an interest in government and had worked at the state and federal level, but local government had never really crossed my mind until that course. When I worked at the state level I felt like a cog in the machine and as though I wasn’t making a difference. 

Why did you get involved in MMASC?

I’ve been involved with MMASC for seven years now. I started out as a student member when I was in graduate school back in 2011, but it wasn’t until my supervisor at my previous organization (City of Murrieta), who was actually a Region 4 Chair, received a promotion and asked if I would be willing to step up and take on a bigger role at MMASC. So I joined the region board for a few years before I joined the Executive Board. I always knew that the association was fantastic for fostering careers in local government, but it wasn’t until that experience in Murrieta that I got the push to become more involved. 

What are your goals as president of MMASC? What do you see MMASC’s biggest accomplishment being in 2020? 

I’m two months in and things are going great! I have three main goals for the upcoming year: bolster participation in our Credential Government Leader program, growing membership, and strengthening partnerships with our affiliates and corporate partners. 

My main goal for 2020 is to offer more opportunities for members to take CGL (Credential Government Leader) courses so they can become credentialed. CGL is a credentialing program led by Cal-ICMA, MMASC, and MMANC. The program allows participants to take control of their professional development and target their own weaknesses or what they need to improve on- so I really want to bolster MMASC’s participation in this program. This year for the first time we are developing a two year program where we will offer a CGL course with either full credit or half credit options at each of our signature events. This way, someone who is looking to become credentialed will have that opportunity by attending our events. 

My second goal is growing our membership. When I first started we had around 500 members and over the past five years I’ve seen that membership grow to 850, so I would really like to see our membership surpass 1,000 by the time I leave the Executive Board- which will be next year. 

And lastly, my third goal is to strengthen our partnerships with affiliates and our corporate partners. I really want to showcase the services and resources to our members that they can provide.  

MMASC has been represented previously by fantastic Executive Board members and past presidents that have a dedication to not only local government but also this organization. At the end of the day I want to make this organization better for the next president and for our members. 

What are some of the challenges you faced while at the organization? What work are you most proud of?

Each member of the Executive Board has such a short time frame in their position, we are only in each position for a year. So we really need to take a long term approach to goals in a short time frame. So I would say that the main challenge is the duration of time in a position. You need to find creative ways to get as much done in as little time as possible. 

Another challenge is expanding our reach beyond generalists. There are other organizations that people in different departments tend to gravitate to because of their specific disciplines. Something we’re working on is marketing more broadly so people realize the benefits of being a part of this organization. We’re offering professional development in a wide variety of disciplines, as well as general management skills. As we hear about another recession on the horizon, we have to do a better job showcasing to employers that MMASC is essential training for their staff, because one of the first things to go during a downturn is professional development funds. So, if we head into a downturn, attracting new members and retaining existing ones may be challenge.  

In terms of what I’m most proud of, I would say it’s less one particular thing and more all of the work that I’ve been a part of, such as being the chair of the University Outreach Committee, which was established to showcase careers in local government and perform outreach to the next generation.  

I’m also proud of being part of great Executive Boards that have developed fantastic programming. In 2017, I Co-Chaired the Annual Conference with then President Ashley Garcia, and we saw the highest registration numbers that the organization had seen. Then in 2018 President Nicholas Gonzalez and his team did it again, and then last year when I Co-Chaired the Annual Conference we set record high registration numbers again. So just being able to see an increasing number of people wanting to participate in our programs over the years has been a real point of pride. 

Why should someone join MMASC? 

I would say that if there’s someone reading this who isn’t familiar with MMASC and is looking to get into local government, this is the premier association to kickstart your career. This is the association where you are going to get the fundamental skills to excel and help you develop your professional network, all while assisting you along the way. Additionally, if you are currently in local government and looking to get involved, MMASC will both inspire and challenge you to take your career to the next level.   

You also work for the City of Poway as a Senior Management Analyst for the Public Works Department. Can you tell me more about your role there? 

I’ve been with the City of Poway for about a year now in the Public Works Department. My responsibilities are primarily contract management, administration of the City’s environmental programs, grant management, and budget development. I’m currently in the midst of implementing an organics recycling program to comply with impending SB 1383, which is significant for my community. 

How does that position help you be a leader at MMASC? 

My responsibilities with the City vary- requiring a variety of soft and technical skills as well as adaptability. These skills and traits have certainly played a role in my successes with MMASC. Like any small organization, there is a need for one to take initiative to get things done and I’ve taken this mindset to MMASC, which has led to leadership opportunities such as chairing the 2016 Summer Session, co-chairing the 2017 and 2019 Annual Conferences, as I previously mentioned, and holding positions on the Executive Board to my role now as President. If you look across the association’s current leadership, this is a common characteristic, which is one of the reasons why the association has been able to accomplish so much recently. Lastly, while not directly related to my current position, I attribute a lot of my experiences to the support I’ve received from MMASC leaders like Past President Alma Janabajab

How does your work with MMASC benefit your work at the City of Poway? 

My work with MMASC has certainly made me a more well-rounded employee. I’ve had the opportunity to develop leadership, event planning, and interpersonal skills through various opportunities with MMASC, which benefited my work with the City. Going back to relationships, MMASC has provided me with a wealth of expertise at my fingertips through the network I’ve developed as a result. If there is an issue that I am not familiar with or I need advice on how to approach an issue, I know I can reach out to fellow members or our corporate partners to find the best possible solution or best practice.