City Managers Conference

February 7-9, 2024

Loews Hollywood Hotel

1755 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA

Thank you for joining the League of California Cities for the 2023 City Managers Conference in Carlsbad!

The conference took place Wednesday, Feb. 8-Friday, Feb. 10 where 500 city managers, including deputy and assistant, from across the state explored current topics of importance and engaged in networking opportunities.

By attending this conference, city managers can equip themselves with essential information and updates needed to effectively run their cities and best position their communities for the future. Previous topics include diversity, relationships with council members, COVID-19 and the future, public safety, financial impacts of the pandemic, and more.

Save the date for the next conference on Feb. 7-9, 2024 at the Loews Hollywood Hotel.

For questions about registration, please contact Megan Dunn. For questions about sponsorships, please contact Amy Wade. For all other questions, please contact Katie Pebler.

Please see our event and meeting policies.

Conference Information

Explore Previous Conferences

2023 Conference Session Descriptions

View the 2023 City Managers Conference Program.

Wednesday, February 8

Registration Open

10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.

Lunch on Your Own

11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Opening General Session

1:30-3:15 p.m.

Opening Remarks
Justin Hess, President, City Managers Dept. and City Manager, Burbank

Cal Cities Remarks
Carolyn Coleman, Executive Director and CEO, League of California Cities
Ali Sajjad Taj, President, League of California Cities and Council Member, Artesia

City Managers Department Awards

Keynote Presentation

Alie Ward is a Daytime Emmy Award-winning science correspondent for CBS’s The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation with Mo Rocca, and host of Did I Mention Invention? on the CW. She also appears on Netflix’s science series Brainchild and Science Channel’s How to Build Everything. Previously, she was the co-host of the GE’s series In the Wild with co-host Adam Savage of Mythbusters and a contributor on Cooking Channel’s ongoing show Unique Sweets.

Alie studied both science and film in college and was a staff writer/editor for the Los Angeles Times and on-air contributor to KTLA. She volunteers at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and is a co-founder of the science communication collective Nerd Brigade.  She is also a culinary host, appearing on Cooking Channel’s Food: Fact or Fiction. Previously, she created, co-wrote and co-hosted the Cooking Channel series Tripping Out with Alie and Georgia and over 50 videos for Cooking Channel. She also hosts Ologies, a comedic science podcast.

Alie Ward, Science Communicator & TV Host

Networking Break

3:15-3:45 p.m.

Women in Government Meet-Up

3:15-3:45 p.m.

Looking to connect with other women in government? Find friends, and great ideas during a focused coffee break in a separate space.

Concurrent Sessions

3:45-5:00 p.m.

How Do I Deal With This?

Despite our best efforts, there are many aspects to the role of city manager that we cannot foresee or control. Many of these circumstances involve unexpected occurrences with our city council members, ranging from scandals to resignations. Join this panel discussion as it delves into how the "unthinkable" can happen with elected officials, and strategies to mitigate it. Learn about the practical, political, legal, and ethical issues that shape our response to these occurrences.

Peter Pirnejad, City Manager, Los Altos Hills

Daniel Jordan, City Manager, Duarte
Laurel Prevetti, Town Manager, Los Gatos 
Scott Wolfe, City Manager, Buellton 

Lessons from the Trenches: Key Strategies for Leveraging Public Works

Effective communication and the celebration of “wins” is essential to building trust and goodwill within a community. A high-functioning public works department can be a strategic partner in this pursuit. But what if department leaders avoid or miss opportunities for communication and publicity? What other lessons can city managers learn from their public works counterparts? In this session, attendees will hear from former public works directors-turned-city managers as they share key lessons and techniques for leveraging this sector.

Moderator and Speaker
Jason Holley, City Manager, American Canyon

Erica Ahmann Smithies, Public Works Director, American Canyon
Greg Humora, City Manager, La Mesa 
Ashin Oskoui, City Manager, Belmont 
Michael Rogers, City Manager, Tracy 

One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Alternative Responses to Mental Health and Other Crises 

Attendees will learn new approaches from around the state on the following topics: how to respond to crises related to mental illness, how these programs have been implemented, and challenges faced.

Karen Pinkos, President-Elect, City Managers Department and City Manager, El Cerrito

Matthew Chidester, City Manager, Half Moon Bay
Jorge Cisneros, Chief of Police, Anaheim
Marisa Creter, Executive Director, San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments

Networking Reception

5:00-6:30 p.m.

Make new friends, and see old ones while enjoying delicious appetizers and tasty beverages during the evening networking reception.

Thursday, February 9

Registration Open

8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Networking Breakfast

8:00-9:00 a.m.

Visit with Sponsors

8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

9:00-10:15 a.m.

Successful DEI Programs and Lessons Learned

Learn how to start a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) program that establishes a more equitable and inclusive community while simultaneously embracing diversity and a sense of belonging. In this session, cities will share their approach to starting and managing DEI programs, including challenges, successes, and lessons learned.

PJ Gagajena, Assistant City Manager, Moorpark

Briana Evans, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Redwood City
Jaqui Guzman, Deputy City Manager, Sunnyvale 
David Wilson, City Manager, West Hollywood 

Sales Tax: Understand Hidden Nuances of California Sales Tax Distribution

Participants will hear from two of the foremost firms in California with unique expertise in sales tax: HdL and Avenu Insights. Learn how sales tax is distributed differently in many situations, including online versus brick and mortar, in- state versus out of state seller, and auto versus jet fuel sales. Then, understand how county pools work and why, and learn the differences between regular Bradley Burns and a transaction and use tax. Following the presentation,  participants will receive an update and hear next steps from the Cal Cities’ City Manager's Department Sales Tax Working Group (re-formed in 2021).

John Robert Gillison, Immediate Past President, City Managers Department and City Manager, Rancho Cucamonga

Fran Mancia, Vice President National Government Relations, Avenu Insights and Analytics 
Leyne Milstein, Assistant City Manager, Sacramento 
Ken Nordhoff, Principal, HdL Companies
Nicolas Romo, Legislative Representative, League of California Cities

First Amendment Folies: Balancing Constitutional Rights of Free Speech while Maintaining City Operations

As public engagement around the dais evolves and social media becomes a public soapbox, understand the challenges that face cities in balancing First Amendments rights with employee safety and maintaining city operations. Hear about two distinct experiences and what steps cities can take today to mitigate legal quandaries related to the First Amendment and keep city hall from being paralyzed by these disruptions. 

Reva Feldman, Retired City Manager, Malibu, Strategic Advisor, Avenu Insights and Analytics 

René Bobadilla, City Manager, Montebello
Deborah Fox, Principal, Meyers Nave 


Networking Break

10:15-10:45 a.m.

New City Managers Meet-Up

10:15-10:45 a.m.

Interested in meeting other new city managers from around the state? Meet up with colleagues new to the profession during a focused coffee break.

Concurrent Sessions

10:45 a.m.-noon

Telling Your Organization's Story

Cities do important work for our communities, but if city managers don’t tell their stories throughout the year, community members and stakeholders won’t know how their tax money benefits the community. Proactive messaging will help your city foster relationships with stakeholders that will benefit them later. This session will cover how to incorporate strategic communications into your city’s general plan, and feature case studies from public agencies that have successfully gained community trust and inspire impactful engagement.

Ryder Smith, President, Tripepi Smith

Christine Brainerd, Communications Director, Folsom
Maurice Chaney, Public Information Officer, Roseville 
Erin Morales, President, California Association of Public Information Officials 

Successful Recruitment and Retention Post-COVID, the Great Resignation and Retirements

COVID-19, the Great Resignation, Baby Boomer retirements, and working towards diversity, equity and inclusion have significantly impacted a city’s ability to hire, retain, and recruit executives. What are the best practices and effective strategies to change this? How does a city compete in this very competitive landscape? What should a city manager know and consider to position themself to hire and retain employees effectively? Discover answers to these questions and learn about the latest trends and challenges in the municipal environment for, hiring, retaining, and recruiting personnel at the executive level.

Marcella Marlowe, Former City Manager, San Marino 

Ron Bow, City Manager, Monterey Park
Anton "Tony" Dahlerbruch, Executive Recruiter, Peckham & McKenney Executive Search 
Wendy Levy, Director of Human Resources, Santa Barbara 

Surplus Land Act: Know the Facts Before You Transact

California is facing a housing crisis. The state has revved up enforcement to accelerate the production of affordable housing including the use of public agency-owned land. Effective in 2020, the Surplus Land Act (SLA)  requires public agencies to follow a process to sell or lease any public property by first offering it to a state-controlled list of affordable housing developers. Learn how the SLA process impacts local land use. Receive best practices on how to navigate the sale, lease, and licensing of public agency property to pursue public-private projects, producing economic development results while staying in compliance with state requirements.

Scott Mitnick, Senior Vice President, Kosmont Companies

Matthew Cody, Of Counsel, Best, Best & Krieger 
Laura Nunn, Senior Manager, CA Department of Housing & Community Development
Jim Vanderpool, City Manager, Anaheim 


Networking Luncheon 

noon-1:15 p.m.

General Session

1:15 p.m.-2:45 p.m.

Opening Remarks

Karen Pinkos, President-Elect, City Managers Department and City Manager, El Cerrito

Observations from Local, State, and National Economists

Learn from three experts as they discuss economic trends and forecasts from local, statewide, and national perspectives. Panelists will address their differing expectations in each respective area.

Moderator and Speaker
Michael Coleman, Fiscal Policy Advisor, 

Ted Egan, Chief Economist, City and County of San Francisco 
Ann Hollingshead, Principal Fiscal and Policy Analyst, Legislative Analyst's Office 
Dr. Peter Rupert, Director at UCSB Economic Forecast Project, Professor of Economics, University of California Santa Barbara 

Networking Break

2:45 p.m.-3:15 p.m.

CalOES Meet and Greet 

2:45-3:15 p.m.

Join Cal OES Deputy Director Ryan Buras and find out how Cal OES can support your city before and after a disaster. Learn about upcoming grant resources. 


Concurrent Sessions

3:15 p.m.-4:30 p.m.

Delivering Economic Development Successes in Partnership with your Council and Community

City managers are under constant pressure to deliver economic development results. Local economic development can be misunderstood as marketing to prospective employers or communicating a business-friendly environment. Setting expectations and engaging with the city council and community are critical to achieving economic development success. As heads of their organizations, city managers can build an economic development-centered culture with staff, the community, and city council that will have far-reaching impacts on economic outcomes. This session features two economic developers-turned-city management professionals who will share their perspectives and discuss practical examples.

Gurbax Sahota, President and CEO, California Association for Local Economic Development 

PJ Gagajena, Assistant City Manager, Moorpark
Aaron Laurel, City Manager, West Sacramento

Ethics Matter: Be inspired by your professional values

Let’s shift the focus on the ICMA Code of Ethics from enforcement to inspiration. How do the defining values of integrity, fairness, justice, and political neutrality inspire you to excellence? How do they produce better outcomes in your organization and community? Think about a time when you stood firm on a principle, and it wasn’t easy! Rediscover values for the city management profession and how best to apply them to real world challenges.

Moderator and Speaker
Brett Channing, Deputy City Manager, Lake Forest 

Kevin Duggan, Senior Advisor, ICMA
Pat Martel, West Coast Regional Director ICMA

Small City Succession Planning: Creating a Culture of Growth

The Great Resignation combined with the Silver Tsunami has made it difficult for public agencies across the state to retain employees. This struggle can magnify within smaller public agencies, including when a staff member leaves,  which often means the loss of institutional knowledge that may span several “positions.” This engaging panel discussion will examine strategies for small cities to implement when hiring and retaining talent, creating a culture of growth, and proactively building a succession plan. Learn best practices for creating a talent pipeline within your small city so that when an employee leaves, you can rest assured that critical services will remain uninterrupted.

Jonathan Shull, Chief Executive Officer, California Joint Powers Insurance Authority 

Chris Constantin, City Manager, San Dimas
Andy Hall, City Manager, Imperial Beach
Jim Lewis, Department Director, City Managers Department and City Manager, Pismo Beach

Friday, February 10

Registration Open

8:00-10:00 a.m.

Networking Breakfast

8:00-9:15 a.m.

“ICMA Preparing the Next Generation” Turns 20: Progress and Challenges

9:15-10:30 a.m.

It has been 20 years since the “ICMA Preparing the Next Generation” guidebook was published. Since then, Generation Z employees have entered the workforce and managers are facing new challenges and impacts to the profession as a result of ‘The Great Resignation’. During this session, the guidebook co-author and current city management professionals will discuss what has occurred over the past 20 years and the ongoing challenges of identifying, mentoring, and preparing the next generation of city managers.

Moderator and Speaker
Frank Oviedo, Assistant City Manager, Santa Clarita

Frank Benest, Liaison, Next Generation Initiatives, ICMA 
Karen Pinkos, President-Elect, City Managers Department and City Manager, El Cerrito
Aly Zimmermann, City Manager, Rocklin


Closing General Session

10:45 a.m.-noon

Strategies to Beat Burnout

“Resilience goes beyond bouncing back. It’s the ability to thrive – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually – regardless of what may be happening in your environment.” – Adam Markel

A leading international keynote speaker, Adam’s message of resilience as the competitive edge in the face of today’s complex markets has resonated worldwide. An attorney-turned transformational trainer, Adam is a sought-after workplace culture catalyst who inspires, empowers, and guides organizations and individuals to create sustainable, high-performance strategies.

Adam has been a keynote speaker and trainer for Fortune 500 companies and conferences including Harvard University, Canon, and the Northeast Business Group on Health. He’s shared the stage with the likes of Tony Robbins, Michael J. Fox, and Stedman Graham.

Adam credits much of his success to the principles he learned during his eight years as a Jones Beach lifeguard in New York. Since his days on Jones Beach, Adam has spent his life protecting others and bringing them back from the brink of professional drowning – including his own. After building a multi-million-dollar law firm specializing in finance, commercial and employment litigation, Adam turned a mid-life crisis into a mid-life calling, pivoting his own career path. Enjoy your time with Adam as he shares tangible and effective takeaways to sustain you as a city leader over time.

Speaker Adam Markel, Best Selling Author, Renowned Keynote Speaker, Resilience Researcher, and Founder & CEO, More Love Media





2023 Conference Session Materials

Previous Conference Session Materials

Call for Proposals

Cal Cities is seeking thorough, thoughtful, and complete proposals that tell how your session can help city officials improve their communities, leadership abilities, and knowledge within their roles. Submissions from any individual, group, business, or organization on any topic are welcome. The call for proposals for the 2024 City Managers Conference is open now through August 4.

We encourage you to take advantage of this exciting opportunity to share your ideas, knowledge, and expertise with this important audience! For questions, please contact Katie Pebler.

General Information

Who Can Submit

Submissions, from any individual, group, business or organization, are welcome. Please remember that all sessions require a well-conceived presentation, good visuals, and a great deal of rehearsal! Commercialization of a product or service is not allowed.

How It Works

Only proposals submitted online through the proposal form will be considered. As there is a limit to the amount of words allowed within the title and description of each proposal, it may be helpful to draft the proposal in a word-processing program first, then paste the final version into the online form.

Target Audience

This educational event is designed to keep city managers, including deputy and assistant, up-to-date on issues of importance to them and their cities. The conference also aims to provide essential information for city managers to effectively run their cities and best position them for the future.


All About Proposals
Securing a spot on the program is highly competitive, with approximately 25 percent of proposals being accepted. You can increase your chances by preparing a thorough, thoughtful, and complete proposal that tells how your session would help city leaders and those who work within city governments to improve their careers and communities. When preparing your proposal consider the following elements:

  • Is the topic new and/or critical for city government?
  • Will it draw a wide audience?
  • Does the panel reflect the diversity of California cities (north/south, large/small, urban/rural)?
  • Is the panel gender balanced and demographically diverse?
  • Will the session appeal to an audience with various political affiliations?
  • Will this issue stimulate action and further important discussion?
  • How does the proposed session impact education and/or advocacy for city leaders?
  • Is the topic geared towards the average city manager?
  • Do you have at least 5 important takeaways?

Tips for Successful Proposals

  • Think big
  • Vary the viewpoint
  • Pare down the panel
  • Speaker skills matter
  • Plan for a crowd
  • Try something new
  • Interact with the audience
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Quality counts

Types of Proposals

More than 95 percent of each year's conference programming comes directly from the open call for proposals. Sessions may be scheduled as a general session or concurrent session at Cal Cities' discretion. Select one of the available formats listed below that best fits your topic and desired outcomes or propose an alternative session format.

  • Keynote Speaker
    Keynote speakers are high-profile and designed to bring everyone together for a general session / and may set the tone of the event. This format permits approximately 45-60 minutes of an engaging presentation by a single speaker. Depending on time restrictions, the presentation may be followed by approximately 15 minutes of questions and answers with the audience or a moderator. 
  • Panel Discussion
    Panels consist of a moderator and a maximum of three speakers who participate in a 60 minute engaging presentation and discussion followed by approximately 15 minutes of questions and answers.
  • Speed Sessions 
    Fifteen minute bursts of information on one topic by one speaker followed by five minutes of questions & answers. Typically, these engaging presentations are based on focused projects or personal experience.
  • Facilitated Group Discussion
    A 75 minute interactive conversation on a topic led by a single facilitator. You may include a maximum 15 minute presentation on which the issue/concern is framed and, then, guide a discussion among the attendees with prepared questions. At the conclusion of the discussion, the facilitator must spend time summarizing key findings, suggestions, and points. 
  • Alternative Format
    Be creative! If your session does not fit one of the above formats, this is your opportunity to propose something different. Please be sure to provide the time, room setup, and other important details. Alternative formats will be accommodated based on interest level, space, and set-up availability.
Requirements, Review, and Policies 

Submission Requirements and Review

Submissions will be reviewed by a program planning committee.

Cal Cities reserves the right to modify accepted proposal session titles, descriptions, presenters or other elements as necessary to insure balance, quality and enhance marketability. If an originally accepted speaker cancels, the session may be disqualified. Additional speakers not included in the original proposal are not permitted to be added without review and approval.

Successful Proposal Considerations

The following criteria may be considered during the review of submissions:

  • Relevance - What are the practical applications of your ideas? Have you included reasoning and documentation to support your conclusions, recommendations and outcomes? Conference attendees prefer presentations focused on outcomes or results. Make the definition and background portions of your presentation brief. Highlight problems encountered, options available, choices made, documented pre- and post-change effects and lessons learned.
  • Content expands attendees' knowledge - Will your presentation expand knowledge beyond entry-level basics? Most conference participants are elected officials, appointed officials, and seasoned professionals. In general, direct your presentation to an intermediate or advanced audience.
  • Originality - Does your presentation advance existing ideas or present new ideas? Has this material been presented elsewhere? You might apply proven techniques to new problems or identify and apply new approaches, techniques or philosophies. Assess the degree to which an application is a new tool. Avoid highlighting a named product or service…focus instead on the general attributes, benefits and drawbacks of a given application, process or tool.
  • Examples - Do you have an appropriate number of examples? Documenting comparative results convinces participants that your ideas have been tested in the real world.
  • Timeliness - Will your presentation still be up-to-date and cutting-edge in six to nine months when the conference occurs? Will your topic have implications in the future? How relevant is your topic in the context of pending legislation, regulations and technology?
  • Inclusion of good, solid insights - What attendees want to learn is the reality versus the hype, the positive and negative attributes, problems encountered but not often discussed, realistic expectations for the operational use and adaptability to a changing environment. They are searching for guidelines and models to simplify or manage their own application or installation.
  • Logical conclusions - Are your conclusions supported by data? Attendees place a high value on supporting data in assessing the value and applicability of presentations. Include adequate and convincing details.
  • Identification of outside resources - Have you included sources of information, benchmark data or other examples?
  • Avoidance of product/vendor commercial - No commercials and/or proprietary information for particular products, services or vendors are permitted.
  • Completeness of proposal - The quality, completeness and accuracy of the proposal will be considered during session selection process.
  • Preferred Speaker Qualifications - Panelists should reflect the diversity of California with a north/south, large/small, urban/rural representation when possible.
    • Five or more (5+) years of public presentation experience.
    • Two or more (2+) years of experience related to working in or presenting on the topic or idea.
    • More than two (2) successful speaking engagements to large audiences at a regional or state level in the past two years.
    • Must not pose a conflict of interest with subject/business area or must disclose such information in each speaker bio submitted.
    • No commercialism.

To ensure a variety of perspectives, Cal Cities policy limits the number of times an individual, group, business or organization can speak at a single conference. In addition, each panel should have no more than one panelist per city/county, firm, company or organization (exceptions may apply).

  • Overall - In the end, you must make your case for the importance of this topic and its relevance to participants.

Registration and Speaker Policy

The League of California Cities is unable to provide full complimentary registration or any reimbursement of expenses, travel, or other compensation. We recognize and deeply appreciate your interest and commitment. The success of our program depends on the efforts of practicing professionals willing to volunteer their time to professional education.

Privacy Policy

We value your privacy and will never share any of your personal information nor sell your e-mail address to an outside party.