Many city leaders weathered the nonstop crises of the last few
years by relying on the fundamental tenants of good governance.
With nearly 90 years of experience between them, these six former
mayors have invaluable advice for new council members or those
who want to take their leadership to the next level.
Mountain View created the Spanish and Chinese Language Civic
Leadership Academy programs as part of its commitment to
diversity and inclusion. The eight-week programs
improve participants’ understanding of local government and
city services. Some graduates have even applied for boards and
commissions or ran for city council.
A firefighter’s job is no longer about putting the wet stuff on
the red stuff. The demands of the modern fire service can often
have a negative impact on firefighters’ mental health. Peer
support teams like the one in Oxnard are one way that cities can
provide firefighters with the tools needed to bounce back from
“Residents sending in pictures of their dogs” is not an official
performance metric for the city of Carlsbad’s communication
department. But it’s a perfect example of how the city’s new
communications strategy has transformed the relationship between
the city organization and the community it serves.
Retail development is a critical part of creating communities
where people can grow and prosper. However, rural markets are
often overlooked during initial retail expansion plans. The rural
communities of Blythe, Clearlake, and Fortuna have each invested
in proactive retail attraction strategies that raise their
profile, creating tangible, positive results in the process.
Many cities hoped that the American Rescue Plan Act would both
help address pandemic-related issues and build an inclusive
future for communities. For the city of Norwalk, this hope is
becoming a reality. Staff focused their efforts on one of the
city’s oldest and most underserved neighborhoods: the One-Ways.
Following the drought in 2008, Oceanside knew it was time to act
to ensure the community had a reliable water source. After nearly
a decade of research, planning, and construction, the coastal
city opened the first high-tech water purification facility
in San Diego County, which will provide 30% of the city’s
Using state-of-the-art technology to purify recycled water, Pure
Water Oceanside produces clean, locally sourced drinking
water that will help serve the community for generations to
Located in the heart of Santa Ana’s La Artesia Pilar neighborhood
is La Placita Cinco — an innovative and community-oriented urban
hub. The city and developers worked closely with the community to
transform the once-neglected neighborhood center, while keeping
residents’ priorities top of mind.
A project decades in the making, West Sacramento has turned what
was once a nearly century-old industrial district into a
growing and thriving mixed-use community where people can live,
work, and play. To make the city’s vision a reality, it helped
create a new financing tool.
Pismo Beach and Santa Clarita were honored for their innovative
infrastructure projects at this year’s Outstanding Local Streets
and Roads Project Awards. Both cities show that, when given the
necessary resources, local leaders can find creative solutions to
statewide problems, even during the worst economic conditions in
To address its housing shortfall, Pomona has adopted a set of
holistic housing and land use policies. The tools help address a
range of related issues, including housing, racial inequity,
accessibility, and transportation. When used together, they can
boost production and ensure that housing is safe, affordable, and
supports a higher quality of life.
As is the case in many cities, gang connections go back decades
in San Bernardino, spanning generations of family members. To
disrupt the cycle, the city partnered with community-based
organizations to create a program that aims to prevent gang gun
violence and de-escalate tensions through personal
interactions with gang members and at-risk youth in ways that law
Four outgoing and former elected officials from throughout the
state shared the most important elements of leadership, their
advice for newly electeds, and the local projects that they are
most proud of.
While Hayward had an anti-discrimination action plan in place
since the 1990s, city officials realized five years ago that it
was in dire need of updating. Hayward city leaders took
immediate action to reassure the community that the city was in
fact an ally.
In the wake of tragedies throughout the nation involving police
officers, communities are asking for police reform and better
de-escalation tools and training. The Chula Vista Police
Department, serving a population of 270,000 in San Diego County,
responded in part by developing an innovative drone program that
can respond to emergencies and provide officers with the
information needed to de-escalate situations.
In 2015, Fremont’s city council committed to a bold goal: Reduce
traffic-related fatalities to zero. Even though the city was
already a national leader in traffic safety, this new mindset
forced officials to rethink their approach to traffic safety.
Known as Vision Zero, Fremont’s traffic safety focuses on
integrating human error into transportation systems, instead of
After seeing thousands of San Luis Obispo residents march through
the streets for George Floyd, the San Luis Obispo community and
city council knew that more work needed to be done to create a
diverse, inclusive community. While diversity and
inclusivity have long been core values of the city
government, it became clear that there was much more to be
In November 2016, Downey residents voted to invest in the most
robust capital improvement program in the city’s history: Measure
S, a 1/2 percent transactions and use tax that generates
approximately $10 million per year for the city. Thanks to
Measure S, Downey residents now experience increased public
safety, benefit from important infrastructure upgrades, and enjoy
It’s hard not to get immersed in the surreal experience of
northern California’s latest attraction: Eureka’s Redwood Sky
Walk. Incredibly, the city didn’t invest a dime in the $4
million project. While redwood education and conservation
are at the heart of the initiative, the potential economic
benefits for the area were a huge factor behind community support
Just 34 years ago, Arcata’s pioneering wetland wastewater
treatment facility was the talk of the town, winning
multiple awards for its integration of oxidation ponds and
fresh water marshes to do the dirty work of cleaning the city’s
wastewater through a mostly natural process involving bacteria,
plants, and sunlight. But the once groundbreaking equipment
is breaking down, and the city has developed a two-phase project
to not only replace 50-year-old parts, but develop new strategies
to face new challenges.