USC City/County Management Fellowship panel highlights ways to develop good city manager skills

December 10, 2018

By Matthew Kredell

The USC City/County Management Fellowship (CMF) hosted a discussion on the evolving role of women in city management on Nov. 15 at the USC Radisson.

Three of the 13 female city managers among the 88 municipalities in Los Angeles County participated in the panel, which took place following the California Contract Cities Association’s City Managers’ Summit: Jennifer Vasquez of South El Monte, Stephanie DeWolfe of South Pasadena, and Yasmin Beers of Glendale. (Pictured below, l-r, with moderator Karen Herrera)

A panel of city managers discusses their challenges and advice to students.

“They all made comments about how they don’t want to be singled out as female city managers,” said Karen Herrera, deputy city manager of Duarte, who moderated the panel. “They want to be known for being good city managers. They’re proud to be female city managers, and they know it’s an accomplishment when you look at the numbers, but they look forward to the day when it’s not a big deal to be a female city manager.”

Herrera said the panelists offered key takeaways to the students, including: be willing to take assignments in all areas of city government to get a well-rounded knowledge of city operations, and step out of comfort zones to take on projects that could prepare them for future opportunities.

First year MPP student and CMF Fellow Elizabeth Marsolais

“It’s really helpful in letting us know what city manager jobs are like, but also what other roles there are within local government that might be just as interesting for us,” said Elizabeth Marsolais, a first-year MPP and CMF Fellow. “You get access to this wealth of institutional knowledge that is priceless as you try to figure out the right fit for you in this seemingly narrow but actually broad career path that is local government.”

The USC City/County Fellowship was formed in 2006 as part of a larger collaboration between the Price School of Public Policy, the International City/County Management Association and the California City Management Foundation.

Each year, a handful of elite fellows receive financial, academic and professional support from prestigious faculty, staff and practitioners in the field of city and county management. Accepted fellows work closely with the CMF Board, composed of city and county managers across California, to coordinate local government events, network with local leaders across Los Angeles County, and develop lasting ties with their other fellows and practitioners.

Fellows are paired with a CMF Board member as a mentor. They also receive a $500 annual stipend to join professional organizations and attend career-enhancing conferences.

Second year MPA student and CMF Fellow Kevork Kurdoghlian

“The beauty of the fellowship is it offers us a valuable opportunity to meet folks who are city managers and high-ranking public officials, and they become your mentors, people you can turn to in order to understand the profession and break into the profession yourself,” said Kevork Kurdoghlian, a second-year MPA and CMF Fellow. “We get a very in-depth understanding of the field through events such as this one, where we have the opportunity to hear from three city managers who have been in local government for decades.”