Article President’s Message Stephany Aguilar

The Role of Vision, Tenacity and Humility in Leadership

Those of us who work in public service come from many walks of life and myriad professions. Serving our communities involves finding ways to deal with the inevitable obstacles and challenges we encounter in our efforts to effect change and make a positive difference. Whether the barrier to progress appears minor or insurmountable, it’s essential to seek options and alternatives that allow us to move toward our goal.

When the path forward looks particularly rocky, I recall a passage in Bruce Wilkinson’s novel The Dream Giver: “The way of the Dreamer is difficult, but anything less is hardly living at all.” These words remind me not to become discouraged or give up, but instead to focus on the potential solutions.

Dreamers see the possibilities that others are intimidated by or cannot envision, and they frequently are told they will undoubtedly fail. Their detractors often point out that there’s no money available to fund their vision and none is likely to be found. Some people warn dreamers, “Don’t even try it.”

I’ve experienced these same challenges, and you have probably encountered similar situations.

Dreamers must have uncanny patience and the tenacity to hold fast to a dream and bring it to fruition — along with the humility to seek the input and ideas of others in refining their vision.

In many ways, the League plays the role of a dreamer in conjunction with its work of advocating for cities. The League has assisted cities in passing constitutional amendments to protect revenue sources and defeating ill-conceived legislation. We continue to work collectively with legislators to educate and inform them about the consequences and/or benefits of proposed legislative policy, while incorporating ingenuity and collaboration in finding solutions to our challenges. We have nurtured relationships with our legislative leaders and with our counterparts at the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) and California Special Districts Association (CSDA), who have similar dreams of creating a better future for all Californians.

The League’s strategic priorities for 2015 are to:

  1. Expand economic development tools and reduce regulation;
  2. Implement additional pension, other post-employment benefits and related reforms to help reduce unfunded liabilities and insolvency risks;
  3. Modernize the financing of critical infrastructure maintenance and construction programs; and
  4. Update the local government tax structure to respond to the “New Economy.”

This is not just a list formulated by leadership, but rather a vision that over time will be written, in some form, into legislation and implemented to assist communities and individuals throughout California. It’s likely that the results of these efforts will reach further than we envision today. While I can’t tell you now what those results might look like, I know that we — the League’s member cities — must continue working together to overcome our limitations, apply and develop our skills, create new strategies to address our diverse needs and ultimately realize our dreams and our vision of a better future for all Californians.

In his book David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell writes “… the fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate: it can open doors and create opportunities and educate and enlighten and make possible what might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.” Gladwell’s underdogs are similar to dreamers. They have the tenacity to see things through. They do not shy away from the constant difficulties that face them, nor do they delude themselves that they will experience a long reprieve from life’s challenges. Instead, these individuals have a strength of character that helps them navigate obstacles and challenges differently from others and explore ways to find answers.

Working with many wonderful dreamers who have diverse talents and skills is one of the benefits of involvement with the League and our communities. These people demonstrate the essential leadership traits of patience, tenacity and humility. I sincerely appreciate having the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with these exceptional individuals, and I will continue doing so as long as there is a dream for the future. I encourage you to explore the opportunities that the League offers each of us through participating in its divisions, departments, policy committees, diversity caucuses, professional development and educational sessions.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your League president this year. It has been a privilege.

Acknowledgments and Thanks

This is my final Western City column as League president for 2014–15. Thanks to my colleagues and city officials who served with me on the League board of directors and its Executive Committee. My work as president has been enriched and made easier by the professionalism and insight of League Executive Director Chris McKenzie, Senior Legislative Director Dan Carrigg, Assistant Legislative Director Jennifer Whiting, Executive Assistant Mimi Sharpe, Regional Public Affairs Manager Deanna Sessums, the League staff and Western City Editor in Chief and consultant Jude Hudson. I greatly appreciate their help. Special thanks to City Clerk Tracy Ferrara, my staff at the City of Scotts Valley, whose support has been invaluable.

This article appears in the August 2015 issue of Western City
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