Lessons Learned from 2017 New & Future City Managers Seminar

The annual CCMF New & Future City Managers Seminar is one of several ways that the California City Management Foundation supports the next generation of City Managers. This multi-day workshop is an excellent opportunity for any new City Manager or aspiring City Manager to receive hands-on mentoring from seasoned/retired City Managers. No questions are off limits and participants freely share their hopes, concerns, and questions about the ins and outs of the city manager role. The 2017 NFCM Seminar took place in Newport Beach in November 2017 with a cohort of 24 students:

  • Heather Abrams – General Manager, Tamalpais Community Services District
  • Ramiro Adeva – Director of Public Works/City Engineer, City of Agoura Hills
  • Terry Blount – City Manager, City of Monte Sereno
  • Scott Carney – Deputy City Manager, City of Stockton
  • Robert Cortez – Deputy City Manager, City of Santa Ana
  • Mark Denny – City Manager, City of Dana Point
  • Douglas Dunford – City Manager, City of Gustine
  • Eric Figueroa – Assistant City Manager, City of San Ramon
  • Peggy Flynn – Assistant City Manager, City of Novato
  • David Gassaway – Community Development Director, City of Indian Wells
  • Jose Gomez – Assistant City Manager/Director of Finance & Administrative Services, City of Santa Fe Springs
  • Michelle Greene – City Manager, City of Goleta
  • David Guhin – Assistant City Manager, City of Santa Rosa
  • Jason Holley – Public Works Director/City Engineer, City of American Canyon
  • Greg Humora – Assistant City Manager, City of La Mesa
  • Janet Jimenez – Assistant to the City Manager, City of West Hollywood
  • Christa Johnson – Assistant City Manager, City of Laguna Beach
  • Kevin Kearney – City Manager, City of Bradbury
  • Grace Leung – Assistant City Manager, City of Irvine
  • Ben Montgomery – Assistant City Manager, City of Chino Hills
  • Debra Rose – City Manager, City of Lake Forest
  • Arturo Sanchez – Assistant City Manager, City of Sacramento
  • Kim Summers – City Manager, City of Murrieta
  • Christina Turner – City Manager, City of Morgan Hill

Below are some insights and “lessons learned” from some of the 2017 NFCM Seminar participants. If you are interested in participating in the 2018 New & Future City Managers Seminar, stay tuned to cacitymanagers.org/nfcm for more information.

How did you first hear about the New & Future City Managers (NFCM) Seminar?

  • Eric Figueroa – Assistant City Manager, City of San Ramon – As a member of CCMF, I saw the event being advertised through the publications on an ongoing basis. I had heard about it through word of mouth as well.
  • Christina Turner – City Manager, City of Morgan Hill – I first remember hearing about NFCM through Ryder Smith, who completed a Communications Assessment for our city. Later, our Assistant City Manager for Development Services forwarded me information about this year’s seminar and recommended that I attend. She was a participant several years ago and said it was very valuable.

Were there particular interactions you had with senior managers that were especially helpful and enlightening?

  • Eric Figueroa – The seminars where City Managers shared their real life stories of what happened to them were very helpful. But in addition to that, it was the free flow of information from the CM presenting and other CMs in the room who would add in their perspective. The seminar had the right amount of structured presentation with great additions. Having a team of City Managers present the whole weekend was great.
  • Christina Turner – I think the facilitated mealtime discussions where really interesting and worthwhile. The facilitators shared their stories and offered advice and tips. Hearing the first-hand experience of the senior managers was fun and will help us be better prepared in our positions.

What were some of the best pieces of advice or tips/tricks you learned during NFCM?

  • Eric Figueroa – The most important take away I received was be prepared: prepared for what you want in a City Manager position, what you need to put in to get the job, what you need to do to keep the job, and how to manage the very important personal aspects of the position like compensation, work/life balance, and your family. The job is not for everyone and you need to be ready when you step forward. If you’re not, you will fail. If you are, you can succeed at a great profession. The other piece was the dynamic nature of the position. It changes over time and changes due to the economy, the elected officials you work with, or things you would never expect. Therefore, you have to continue to grow and evolve to succeed long term.
  • Christina Turner – One of the most important pieces of advice was to seek the assistance and support of other city managers; we have a wealth of knowledge, experience, and expertise available to us from our peers. Another tip was that communication and relationships are of utmost importance. Invest time in all relationships – Council, employees, bargaining groups, community, media, and school district. Also, make your leadership style and vision for the city clear. And…have fun!

How do you feel attending NFCM will positively impact your career?

  • Eric Figueroa – For someone who wants to be a City Manager, it was very helpful to just be honest about that interest and talk solely about what that decision is like. I am not sure that I will ever have another opportunity to talk with people committed to helping me make that transition, in a seminar solely focused on that decision and with material that deals with the holistic aspect of the job.
  • Christina Turner – The tips/tricks and advice I learned at NFCM will help me be a more confident manager. As a newly appointment city manager, I was so eager to spend the weekend talking about our profession and to learn from experienced professionals. The information from the weekend, as well as the reading materials, will help me effectively tackle issues and work with my team.

Why would you recommend NFCM to other young city managers or assistant city managers?

  • Eric Figueroa – The NFCM Seminar was an invaluable experience because the information provided is not available anywhere else. You can read all the articles you want in advance, but the presence of seasoned managers and peers who are dealing with these issues allows academic concepts to become intellectual reality.
  • Christina Turner – I would absolutely recommend NFCM! I think NFCM is a must for aspiring city managers and for newly appointed city managers. The information, resources, and knowledge provide a very transparent view of the city manager role.