Issue 103 - September 2020
Q&A with Troy Brown, City Manager, Moorpark, and ICMA’s 2020/2021 President-Elect
The California JPIA takes great pleasure in highlighting the extraordinary things our members do on a regular basis. This month, we focus a spotlight on the City of Moorpark’s city manager, Troy Brown, who is International City/County Management Association’s (ICMA) 2020/2021 President-Elect to learn more about Troy and his vision for the future.
Q. When you began your career as a recreation specialist for the City of Santa Clarita in 1994, did you intentionally seek the position or did someone recommend you apply?
A. I moved to California in 1987 from a small town outside Philadelphia. When I first arrived in California, I held down numerous part-time jobs as young people often do. Eventually, I saw an ad in the newspaper for a recreation specialist for the City of Santa Clarita and applied for the job. The city was growing quickly, and I had the opportunity to have a bigger impact in local government. The job allowed me to expand my thinking about working in local government and gave me many opportunities to be creative. Unbeknownst to me, people in the organization saw something in me that I did not see at the time and encouraged me to return to school. I was not interested in returning at first, but as I was applying for positions within the organization, I was not getting the jobs. I decided to return to school and eventually graduated from Cal State Northridge and promotions followed. Although I fell into local government work, I loved it.
Q. What motivated and/or interested you in staying and pursuing a career in local government?
A. It brings me joy feeling like the work I do is meaningful and having a positive impact on other people’s lives.
Q. Over the span of your career, what have you experienced to be the most significant changes and demands on city officials?
A. The promulgation and proliferation of technology has changed information and transparency significantly. It has created a ‘now’ environment whereby people need information now and in bite-size pieces. The challenge is the work city officials do is incredibly complex and often times is not suitable for having policy debates over a tweet. This makes servicing and policy setting more challenging, but in the same token, technology has broadened engagements in these conversations. The real challenge is how to get complex information out in a way that is easily digestible.
Q. Who has inspired you over the course of your career and why?
A. One person was George Caravalho (Santa Clarita’s first permanent city manager). He was such a visionary person and always challenged me to be creative and take risks, always with a backstop that everything was going to be okay. He embraced failure. I feel as though I grew the most under George’s leadership. He taught me that the job is about people and things we value as human beings. He was very inspirational.
Q. It has been said the pandemic has caused a “digital pivot”. How do you feel the changes caused by the pandemic, mainly the use of technology and working remotely, will change government operations for the foreseeable and distant future?
A. I am hoping it makes us better. Governments can now embrace technology, not only from a service perspective, but the pandemic has challenged us to substantially enhance our engagement efforts. We now have built an infrastructure that from anywhere people can be involved in our public meetings, and that is wonderful. Formation of public policy is based on how residents feel and the more we can hear from them, the better. From an organizational perspective, it has been challenging. Many administrative government positions have traditionally been conducted from offices within city halls, but the pandemic has brought to light that many duties can be handled electronically. This new service delivery model brings its own challenges with human resource allocation and labor laws, but we will come out better for it.
Q. A focus as a member of the California JPIA is on risk management and reducing the cost of risk to members. What is your overall risk management philosophy, and how do you promote it within your organization?
A. The more we can do on the front side to mitigate losses and risk, the cheaper the program. Even more importantly than that, the better off the quality of life for employees and people. If we can prevent losses from happening, we can help people with their quality of lives. I support minimizing risks in my organization. I share information with the employees on how they can mitigate risk, and it helps and creates a level of awareness that may or may not naturally happen.
Q. How, and why, did you become active in ICMA?
A. I became active because my city manager at the time told me to join and registered me for ICMA back in 2000. ICMA taught me all the things I did not learn through traditional studies, like policy implementation and consensus. I felt fulfilled by the organization to the point I wanted to start to give back to it. Being involved in ICMA supported my own philosophy of helping people. I sat on many boards with my time on the executive board serving as a West Coast Regional Vice President being the icing on the cake. Once I became vice president, I was eligible to be president.
Q. Why did you seek, or were you nominated for, this role as ICMA President?
A. I sought it out and applied. I was fortunate, and in a good place with my personal and professional life when I got the call, and here I am.
Q. What is your top priority for the ICMA organization?
A. ICMA is on the frontline of community building, community engagement and many different things. I see the world going through this transformative state as to how we interact with each other and conduct policy discourse. This percolates down to the local government level. I want to help equip ICMA members to enable them to have difficult conversations. Unfortunately, many managers are not often equipped to deal with difficult social issues like social injustice to the level these issues are prevalent today. My goal is to rebuild discourse and congeniality and to help managers create safe places for difficult conversations to happen. ICMA and cities have pivotal roles in finding the common ground and digging into the conversations.
Q. What are you looking forward to the most during your tenure as ICMA President?
A. Learning a lot! I am a strong believer in continuous learning and the things impacting cities occur in a bubble. What happens everywhere affects all of us. On a secondary level, I am looking forward to having some of the difficult conversations (race, gender, social equity) with members and through that dialogue, we will learn and come from a place we are understanding. I can truly have an impact on that by having the full force of ICMA behind me and I welcome it. My mission is to build good leaders and good communities.
Q. Final thoughts?
A. A lot of people talk about the times we are in, how unprecedented they are, but we have all been through cycles of unprecedented times. I truly believe if we learn from these times, we always get better. What other choices do we have? We must move forward. This moment in time, on the grand scheme of things, is merely a blip. I am excited to learn from all of this and excited about the future.< Back to Full Issue Print Article