It Was a Heck of a Week–The City Manager, Instructor, Lobbyist, Presenter, Moderator, Board Member Hat Box Was Full

What a week some ten years ago–The Weather Channel might have described it as the confluence of convergent and divergent air flows, in this case probably hot air colliding. Even with the diligent effort of a more than capable Administrative Assistant, my schedule was put to the test.  In one week I had to be here, there, and everywhere. Hmm, sounds like a song–It’ll come to me later.

To say the least, the week was packed. Not that this was hardly anything new, but not quite like this.  After all, a full week of nose to the grindstone is to be expected, right? Ask the card carrying members that have voluntarily, or involuntarily, risen to the rank of workaholic. Without getting into the Zen of work-life balance, good time management, and the value of prioritization, there are times when perfect storms happen. 


It was the usual for a city manager; remembering what kept me up the night before, reviewing the schedule for the day and the rest of the week, the weekly morning staff meeting, city council agenda review, returning phone calls, lunch meeting with the Mayor, more returned phone calls, a developer waiting in the lobby and a reporter, or even better, the proverbial gadfly on line two.  You know, the usual. 


It was on-going city manager duties, assigned and otherwise. Since there was no time on Monday, the Finance and Planning Directors were stacked up in the doorway.  The day was full but I had to leave no later than 4:45 p.m.  My avocational adjunct duties were calling. I had to drive the 30 miles from city hall  to make my weekly 6:00 p.m. appointment with twenty or so Master of Public Administration students at the University of La Verne. It was the third class meeting of Local Governance and Management. Some four and half hours and 60 miles later, my weekly sojourn to the campus and back had ended; I was home.


Appreciative of getting five or six hours of sleep, practitioner adjuncts like me are back at their day jobs the next morning. Some city council members are finally getting to their agenda packets, and they have questions. If I don’t know the answers, their questions become my questions. The last minute scramble is on.  After all, Jurupa Valley is one of the few cities that have council meetings on Thursday nights. Aww yes, the joy of last minute inquiries but thank the gods, at least they ask. That inaugural city council was by and large a good group.  Answers supplied, it was once again off to the classroom.  But this time, it was off in another direction.

Leaving a little earlier, I now had to make a different trek, a 45 mile drive to downtown Los Angeles to teach Fundamentals of Public Administration. This time it was for a batch of first time Cal-State Northridge graduate students. That institution channels its contigent through cohorts. Without getting into the details of teaching in a new program, at an off campus venue, some 90 miles from home, this was no walk in the park. A week earlier, I had been asked, pleaded with if you please, to step in to replace a professor in ill health. Even though I had taught this course many times elsewhere, I inherited his syllabus and his text books, not my choice for either. Coming from a make shift training room with no computer connectivity, more students than chairs, l was full of coffee and possessing blood shot eyes. I pulled into my driveway sometime around midnight.  Note to Self:  Learn to say No!! 


This time it was just four hours of sleep. I had a 6:30 a.m. flight out of Ontario to Sacramento. I was to moderate, and participate, as a panelist on State and Local Government Relations for the California League of Cities.   This commitment had been made months earlier and had a direct reference to my responsibilities with the City of Jurupa Valley and our battle with California. It was interesting, if not out and out sad, to find that only a handful of the 300 or so locally elected and appointed officials  had ever heard of Dillons Rule. Along with the Cities of Eastvale, Menifee and Wildomar ours was a story unto itself. As an aside, this was the tale at the time:

Immediately after completing my morning responsibilities, it was over to the State Capitol to meet with our lobbyists and the Governor’s Chief of Staff.  She was always late and I was getting nervous about making it back for the 6:00 p.m. city council closed session.  Made It!! Now all I had to do was drink more coffee. Adrenalin don’t fail me now.  Fortunately, there was no real controversy found on the agenda. Uncharacteriscally,  public attendance was sparse. It was a little after 10 and it was once again, back to the normal 45-60 minute  slog back home. As it were, CALTRANS was known for closing freeways after 9:00 p.m.  It did. Rolling in around 11:30, getting to bed after mid-night was becoming a pattern.


Come Friday morning it was back in the car to drive the 63 miles south to fly out of San Diego.  This time a return to Boston. Friday evening and Saturday provided a breather spent as a tourist. Sunday morning was the annual meeting of the International City/County Management Association’s (ICMA) Advisory Board for Graduate Education. As Chairman and Editor for the Third Edition of: MANAGERS AS TEACHERS: A PRACTITIONER’S GUIDE TO TEACHING PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION, I was tasked with presenting the final document to the Board.

Come Monday afternoon, I delivered another presentation, this time on “Alternative Public Service Delivery Systems.” After all, Jurupa Valley was the primary example and, at the time, the only municipality with 100% of its workforce composed of consultants and contractors. There was a lot of grey hair, perplexed looks, and a few shiny scalps in the room. One would think after two hours and the obligatory Q & A the week was finally over. No, not really. I still had to co-present on one more panel, “City Managers as Faculty.” Finally, the week was over.

That was it, the week that was. I lost track of how many miles traveled. It was partly the lament of an instructor-practitioner yet it mostly hovered around California’s newest city. The one that had almost been done in by the State of California. As far as the week itself, a lot of it was just unfortunate timing. Some of it was me thinking I could do it all.  At least one lesson was learned. In trying to be accommodating I really should have never taken on that class for Northridge. In any event, it’s all said and done. In terms of the trip to New England, R&R started the following Tuesday. We stayed with friends in Portland Maine.  Lobster, oysters, cold beer, what could be better? I slept like a baby. 

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