The California JPIA’s culture of approachability, professionalism, and commitment to members emanates from the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Jon Shull, who signed on in 1995 and took the helm as Chief Executive Officer in 2002. Shull celebrates 25 years of service to the Authority this month.
“There are good managers and there are good leaders,” said Curtis Morris, President of the Authority’s Executive Committee and Mayor of the City of San Dimas. “Jon is both. His management and leadership have elevated the Authority to a new level.”
Originally intent on becoming a city manager, Shull earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in public administration from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, respectively. After securing his first “real” job as an administrative assistant for the City of Cerritos, he transitioned to a role as assistant to the city manager in the City of Signal Hill.
“Both Cerritos and Signal Hill were members of the then-Southern California JPIA,” said Shull. “When Authority General Manager Bill Holt began looking for an assistant, it wasn’t a straight line on my career path to becoming a city manager, but I was familiar with the Authority, and I was a strong advocate for risk management.”
Shull applied for the position and was hired in February 1995.
By the end of the decade, the Southern California JPIA became the California JPIA, providing risk management services from an extended and renovated facility in the City of La Palma. Under his leadership, the Authority launched its first website, transformed training from a simple member benefit to a holistic loss-prevention strategy, and implemented a new prospective funding model that positioned the pool to maintain its strong financial position and provide stability to members. The California JPIA also enhanced its already-respected voice in state and national risk management organizations, receiving Accreditation with Excellence by the California Association of Joint Powers Authorities and the Association of Governmental Risk Pools’ Advisory Standards Recognition.
“Jon is a visionary,” said Margaret Finlay, Vice President of the Executive Committee and a Councilmember for the City of Duarte. “He doesn’t look at things how they are, but how they should be.”
Shull’s commitment to risk management and innovation have established the Authority as a leader in the pooling industry.
Q: How has the Authority changed and grown during your tenure?
As an established self-insurance pool, in the early years we provided a good alternative to the commercial marketplace. Things changed when we recognized the need to be a “risk” management organization, not just a “claims” management organization.
Q: How did your experience as a municipal staff member affect your approach to leading the Authority?
Having worked for cities, I was able to identify where the Authority could benefit cities. Risk management consulting—having more risk managers who can visit agencies on a regular basis—allows us to really serve the members, listen to what they need, and identify opportunities outside their field of vision. Local risk managers can provide very timely service, be present on site, and become an extension of staff; that helps develop relationships and protect organizations from risks.
Q: How does your role as CEO of the Authority equate to a role as a city manager?
In a sense, I am in city management. I work with city managers by focusing on risk management as a trusted partner. I am involved in discussing development, addressing employee issues, reviewing construction contracts, and helping to make sure that city employees are safe. I feel gratified that I get to do so much with our cities that are doing so many interesting things, and to help deal with challenges in the risk management arena.
Q: Looking back, what are some accomplishments of which you’re proud?
First, the expansion of our training program has been huge. And the training we provide is at no direct cost to the members.
The other thing of which I’ve been particularly proud is the people with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work. At this point in my career, I’m able to celebrate that I hired everyone who works at the Authority. It is a very thoughtful, dedicated, passionate group of people who are truly dedicated to the members and their success. That also extends to our Executive Committee.
Q: How have changes in technology impacted your work?
When I first started with the Authority, one of my first tasks was to work on the retrospective deposit computation, which was done by the accounting department by hand. The use of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to modernize that process was a big change. Remember, that was 25 years ago!
The use of technology to interact with risk managers in the field, allowing them to work from their homes, closer to the members, instead of having to come into La Palma, also has been a huge benefit.
The other big thing is big data: having the computing capacity to really analyze our data and to have access to industry data about factors that are influencing claims and exposures.
All of those resources help to reduce the cost of risk to the members. We are able to reduce expenses so they can keep the money that they otherwise would spend on attorneys and claimants and instead invest in their communities, to provide services that their constituents want.
Q: What do you predict for the Authority over the next 25 years?
As a financially strong pool with dedicated human resources, the Authority will see continued growth to provide our services to more agencies. Our focus will continue to be on municipal exposures. I expect the Authority will continue to develop innovative programs to serve our members.
Q: What would you like to share with Authority members as you celebrate this milestone anniversary?
Think about risk management. If you have a question, or you’re about to do something, call us. We would love to help. Being involved early allows us to help identify potential challenges from a risk management perspective. We want to be involved with what you’re doing. We care.
Congratulations, Jon, and thank you for your service!