For Lacy Kelly, executive director Orange County Division, League of California Cities, there is no such thing as a typical day. The mission of the Orange County League of Cities is to restore and protect local control for cities through education and advocacy to enhance the quality of life in Orange County.

The 45-year-old Kelly has been in this important position for two years and she can’t say enough positive things about it. For example, she reports that she definitely enjoys service leadership and helping groups of people reach their collective goals. 

“I like connecting people to resources and information. I believe that anyone in a service profession should continually be looking for gaps in needed services and striving to fill in those gaps and meet those needs,” she says. “I love people, and find them very interesting.  I think that every person has something to offer, but nobody has it all.  I enjoy the endeavor of figuring out where someone’s talents and contributions can bring benefit to the organization and the field of local government.”

In addition, she takes pleasure in mentoring young professionals and says she is committed to helping other professional women succeed.

“I am very passionate about the value and efficacy of local government itself.  It is the most efficient, immediate and impactful form of government.  I am committed to helping local government (cities) meet and address the current economic challenges they face and helping to bring forward challenges and opportunities that will be coming their way in the future,” she says.

Here’s a closer look and some eye-opening info on what goes on behind closed doors.

Q: What can the League offer cities?

A: A place to workshop ideas and solutions, a chance to learn from and mentor peers, a place to discuss and learn about best practices in good governance and policy making, a place to find a consolidated voice up to the state capitol, or even locally and regionally.
Q: How does the League interact with cities?

A: Our staff and board interact face-to-face several times a month at membership meetings, committee meetings, via the Internet, Web site, via the phone and through partnership efforts.  We are a member-centric organization, meaning we respond to what our members tell us they want – so we utilize an electronic survey mechanism to determine the most important issues to our members, and then we respond to those issues.
Q: What are some of the main issues you are handling specifically of late…?

A: The state budget crisis poses significant threats to city budgets. Declines in property and sales tax have had a significant impact on city budgets, and the threat of the state’s taking or borrowing of local city revenues are a continual threat until the state finds a way to balance its own budget.
Cities are also dealing with new regulations that impact their local decision-making control, and demand regional planning efforts that have never been implemented before. In the midst of budget crisis, cities also have to figure out how to do business differently on many levels.  Cities are jumping through many hoops right now, and we are doing all we can to help them meet those challenges.
Q: What seems to be the most common problem cities face today?

A: Maintaining their local decision-making control, maintaining funding for vital community services, regional planning demands, and responding to and complying with unfunded mandates.
Q: Why would a city want to be a part of the League?

A: We are their voice to Sacramento and are continually looking out for their best interests and what issues may be coming their way.  We try to be the eyes and ears for cities, so they can focus on the work at hand.
Q: Are you an exclusive group?

A: Yes and No. The Orange County League of Cities is a member organization of only the member cities in Orange County.  However, our members and specifically, our board of directors, believes strongly in collaboration and partnership.  So, we partner and collaborate on a number of common issues with the building industry, private industry, the transportation field, emergency services, the county, other government entities, and our state and federal legislators.  We invite all of these entities to our meetings, and many are involved in committees and collaborative initiatives and partnerships.

Q: What’s a typical day like for you?

A: There is no typical day.  Cities are affected by the state legislature, bills being considered and passed by the Legislature, and responding to the continual changes make for course changes throughout the day.  I communicate daily with a broad range of people in local government and the private sector on issues affecting cities.  I also spend quite a bit of time communicating with our members, investigating issues that they are currently dealing with and investigating ways the organization can help.
Q: When did you become interested in working with elected officials? Politics?

A: I became interested when I saw the ad for the job.  Because I see local government as the most impactful and responsive form of government, I wanted to get engaged in the field, serve cities and learn about how elected officials lead their jurisdictions so I could be of assistance.  Luckily, I applied for the job and got it, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it since.
Q: What’s the one main thing that you have learned over the years that you could offer to someone who may be interested in a similar position?

A: Everyone has something to offer…it’s a matter of finding out what their talent or expertise is, and finding where it can fit in.  Also, changing situations bring our changes in people’s approach and responses.  Sometimes, you just never know who will support your efforts or who will come to your rescue.  An open mind and the ability to be objective are extremely important.

Q: Do you aspire to a higher political office? Have you ever run for any office yourself?

A: I am a CEO for a nonprofit that serves elected officials.  I would probably not run for office.
Q: Have you worked with Gov. Schwarzenegger? What has that been like?

A: Not directly, but I have worked with his staff.  Our work with the Governor has mostly been to forward our member’s positions on initiatives and regulations that he is working on.  We also make it a point to have annual updates from his staff to let our members know what is currently on the agenda for the Governor’s office.
Q: How did you land the job you have?

A: By having the right combination of skills and professional attributes that the organization felt were important when I was hired – basically a lot of experience in the field of nonprofit work, people skills and proven financial and organizational management acumen.  
Q: What do you find most challenging about your job?

A:  Navigating political views as it relates to maintaining a member-centric organization in a political environment.  To remain member-centric sometimes requires our leaders putting aside political ideology for the greater good of the membership.  This can be a hard thing for some to do.  I have good leaders on my board that have proven their commitment to this value.

Debbie L. Sklar is a Southern California resident, columnist and editor for publications around the country. For story ideas/comments, please e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .