My Encore–Contributing to the New by Synthesizing the Old

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Friends, Colleagues and Professional Associates:

At the end of July 2014 and after four decades, I finally retired from municipal management and full time consulting. I still may do some short duration advisory assignments but no more showing up at the office. Consequently, I plan to continue putting my time into the classroom, finding volunteer opportunities, mentoring, and writing. Fortunately, I have been an adjunct professor for a number of years so my experience in the classroom and as an on-line instructor should provide continuing opportunities.

Since there are a few books floating around in my head I need to squeeze out the time to write with the occasional welcome interruption to participate in panel discussions. I am hoping this will afford me the time to give back to the profession and especially to the next generation of public servants. As many of you know, the California Chapter of the International City/County Management Association (CAL-ICMA) has spent quite a bit of effort in developing the Senior City Manager ENCORE program. Kudos to Frank Benest, Kevin O’Rourke, Ron Wood, Michael Garvey and a host of other retired city managers for their efforts even though they have cleverly tried to avoid the term “Retired”. I hope to make some meaningful contributions to this discussion as well.

Ironically, I do find it interesting how we all seem to react differently to the post full time world of work. Many just walk away never to be heard from again. Others can’t quite seem to pull the plug while others keep one foot in by maintaining social connections with their former professional peers. For me, I’m trying, with mixed success, to maintain the relationships that have been the most meaningful. With all of this, I hope to somehow continue to grow and continue to contribute by synthesizing a professional lifetime of experiences. With nearly forty years of work under the belt, I have an almost logarithmic breadth and depth of experience I could not have replicated along a more linear career path. After 23 years in the public sector and 19 years in the private sector, the variations in the views and the venues certainly have made it interesting. From a mostly numerical representation, my professional history includes:

By Managerial Time in Grade:

12 Years as a CEO (City Manager, Executive Director, President)

6 Years as a Corporate Vice President

13 Years as a Deputy City Manager or Private/Public Sector Department Director

By Clients Served: 58

34 Cities and/or Redevelopment Agencies (2 Start-Up Cities)

4 Local Agency Formation Commissions (LAFCO’s)

1 County

3 Economic Development Corporations (EDC)

2 Workforce Development Boards

3 Housing Authorities

1 Joint Powers Authority

1Municipal/State Joint Powers Finance Authority

1 Water District

2 Multi-Million Dollar Development Companies

1 Big Box Retailer

3 Municipal, Real Estate, and Financial Advisory Firms

1 University (Real Estate and Financial Advisory Services)

1 University (Certificate Curriculum Design)

By Public Sector Client Profile:

Populations: 18,000 to over 1 Million

Number of Employees: 26 to over 7,300

Budgets: $14 million to over $2.3 Billion

By Private Sector Client Profile:

Two separate billion dollar development corporations

The nations largest member only big box retailer

By Teaching Experience:

40 Sections of Graduate Level Courses in Public Administration, Public Policy, Strategic Planning and Real Estate Development

So as a former City Manager once said to me: “There sure is a whole lot of mileage on that resume.” Yes there is and I’m not done. I would like to think I’ve figured out many of the does and don’ts. I would hope that my “Road Less Traveled” has some value. Since I’ve had some minor exposure to publishing, I plan to devote a significant amount of time to writing on such subjects as: (1) State/Local Government Relations in California; (2) Regional Governance; (3) Civics and The Public Service; and (4) Lessons Learned for Public Sector Managers. There is a whole lot to discuss and a whole lot to write about. This part of the journey is just starting.

Stay Well!!!

Steve Harding

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