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Public Officials Speak to ASPA Members

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By Rory O’Sullivan –

A panel of city managers met in San Bernardino to discuss how Inland cities can thrive during the economic downturn.

The Inland Empire American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) hosted a panel discussion which included Terri Willoughby, Finance Director of Menifee, Frank Oviedo, City Manager City of Wildomar, Gary McBride, Deputy Executive Officer San Bernardino City.

As Public Administrators during the recent economic downturn, they all faced budget losses in excess of $100 million, had to layoff long -term employees, and took reductions in pay.

McBride said communication and transparency are key issues between themselves, other government agencies, and the public at large.

“We’re not hiding anything, it’s not pretty but we try to be honest.”

Oviedo and Willoughby agreed that it was important to keep City employees in the loop. “There is nothing worse than standing in line at the store and finding out about a financial loss to the budget,” said Mayor Pro Tem of Wildomar, Timothy Walker.

“If that happens you lose faith in your city management at that point.”

Oviedo and Walker said the trust and leadership they have built along with the city council is the reason that Wildomar is becoming a better place to live. He continued to say his door is always open and he tries to make himself available to the public, city council and his employees as much as possible.

Oviedo, McBride, and Willoughby also agreed that you have to be a leader.

“Leadership is so important,” said Willoughby. She said the leadership she has shown is one of the reasons Menifee is one of only two cities in Riverside County to have growth during this economic decline.

San Bernardino County and Wildomar in Riverside County are also on track to have economic growth according to McBride and Oviedo.

Wildomar has seen an uptick in tax revenue for the first time in years; a sign that could mean people have more money in their pockets.

Also present were California Baptist University Public Administrator Professors Dr. Pat Kircher and Dr. Elaine Ahumada, Highland Police Department, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, and California State University, San Bernardino. For more information on ASPA and for upcoming guest and forums visit their website at www.ieaspa.org.

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