With limited public sector experience, Cal State Fullerton master of public administration student Amanda Aguilar saw the City Management Fellowship Program as an opportunity to get an exclusive and practical look at local government work.
"Most students in the M.P.A. program fall into one of two categories: They are either trying to move up from their current position in a public or nonprofit organization or they are trying to begin a career with one. I fall into the latter category," explained Aguilar.
"I am a big believer in higher education, but I realize that there is no substitute for hands-on experience."
Now in its seventh year, the program matches students with mentors in local government and provides each of them with a $1,000 scholarship and one-year membership to the Municipal Management Association of Southern California. Fellows also have the opportunity to attend city management workshops and public administration conferences.
"The great thing about the City Management Fellowship Program is that it pairs students with people who have built successful management careers in local government," said Aguilar. "My mentor even earned his degree here at Cal State Fullerton, so I'm looking forward to learning some useful tips on how I might be able to follow a similar path."
Aguilar's mentor is alumnus Jim Sadro '92, '95 (B.A. political science-public administration, B.A. criminal justice, M.P.A.), who has served as La Habra's city manager for four years.
"My hope is that I can provide some perspective to a career field that can be complex, demanding and rewarding," said Sadro. "Hopefully by the end of the year, the students I work with have a better appreciation of what this career field demands and what it can give back in a sense of accomplishment and purpose."
Though there is no typical day for a city manager, Sadro said some of his routine activities include meeting with staff, residents, business owners and nonprofits; having conversations with councilmembers to discuss concerns on behalf of residents and business owners; reviewing staff reports; catching up on legal cases and opinions; dealing with personnel matters; and visiting project sites and city facilities.
"By far the two most useful skills I developed while attending CSUF were how to think logically and how to write effectively," he said. "Exceptional writing skills are mandatory at the mid- and higher levels of management in governmental agencies. You have to be able to take complicated issues, concepts and problems and break them down into organized, logical components, then combine those elements into an easy-to-read, understandable report."
The City Management Fellowship Program is sponsored, for a second year, by C.J. Segerstrom and Sons. The 2018-19 class of fellows and their mentors are:
Fellow: Amanda Aguilar
Mentor: Jim Sadro, La Habra city manager
Fellow: Susan Knudson
Mentor: Christa Johnson, Laguna Beach assistant city manager
Fellow: Larry Mares
Mentor: Bill Gallardo, Brea city manager
Fellow: Andrea Mejia
Mentor: Laurie Murray, La Palma city manager