Since March, Jacobs has been at the helm of this Orange County city that is known best for being unknown. The 47-year-old’s goal as City Manager has been to change that thought, amongst some other issues.
“When I took the job in Stanton, I had a couple of people who live in Orange County ask me where it was, and one who said he was sorry,” Jacobs said. “That has not been my perception of Stanton from the inside. We have a great little community with caring and friendly people. I would like that perception one day to be … ‘Stanton is a great place to live and work.’ You only have to visit the city to know how wonderful we really are.”
No stranger to politics, Jacobs has been in local government for 16 years. She spent 13 years with the City of Costa Mesa in the city manager’s office, Public Works Department and Finance Department. She left Costa Mesa for the private sector and spent five years as a consultant; her clients consisted of local governments, both city and county.
“I have been the City Manager of Stanton since March 10. I have been filling both the city manager and Administrative Services Director positions since December,” she says.
When asked what the fascination was with local government work, she said that she likes its variety.
“Local government offers a variety of challenges on a daily basis. No two days are ever the same. It is a job in which you can make a positive impact on people’s lives and perhaps help a struggling business to succeed. The number of issues we deal with are complex and require sound analytical skills. There are multiple angles to every decision, so it keeps you on your toes. It is never boring and I love the challenge,” she says.
Of course, even though she has been on the local government scene for a while now, Jacobs says there is always room for improvement.
“I think that local government is the most effective level of government. We provide the services that are most important to people in their daily lives. I feel communication with the community is key. When residents and businesses understand what we are doing and why, it makes for a better relationship,” she says. “Government is a regulatory body, and many times residents and businesses feel we are just arbitrary. We are typically enforcing rules from other governmental agencies and many of our residents and businesses don’t understand this.”
She also believes that customer service is important and that each person who has an interaction with the city should feel they have been treated with dignity and respect, even in a difficult situation.
No Easy Job
Jacobs stresses that elected officials do have a very difficult job like balancing the needs of a very diverse community. However, it is important that elected officials “really listen to the community, prioritize and implement programs to meet those needs.”
She does offer some additional ideas and thoughts to other public officials for possibly making a difference in the name of the people and for the people:
“I think in cooperation with the community, we can do great things. In the short time I have been with Stanton, we have done some major redevelopment on Beach Boulevard; we built a beautiful Veteran’s Memorial Park and a great pirate-themed park with a water feature at the Harry M. Dotson Park.”
Other strides in the City of Stanton on her watch have also included building a new corporation yard and fire station. It also continues operating with its a award-winning parks and recreation program that provides safe places for kids to play after school.
“We have started a unique collaborative, too, in which we partner with social service agencies in the area to meet the needs of the community without overlapping services,” she says.
One of the things that she is most proud of is the city’s new Farmer’s Market that began on June 1.
“I am also pleased that my contribution as a financial manager and as city manager to the City of Stanton has been to have the city be fiscally conservative with our funds. As a result, we are weathering the current economic recession better than many other comparable cities with no lay-offs or reductions in services. We are able to still accomplish new activities such as the Stanton Farmer’s Market.”
While the Farmer’s Market might be a hit, the city has had some problems to work out recently, she shares.
“We are struggling like most cities due to the economy. The city council has worked very hard over the last several years to improve the look and quality of our programs. To that end, the council made the difficult decision to use some of our reserves to assist through this economic downturn,” she continues.
“We are not replacing positions as they become vacant and employees have agreed to eliminate cost of living increases for the next 2 fiscal years. The good thing is no lay-offs or furloughs are imminent in our city. We reduced expenditures in our General Fund budget by more than $700,000.”
Prior to her appointment to city manager, Jacobs was the Administrative Services Director (Finance Director) for three years and until June 22, will be in both positions. She also is proud of the two-year budget proposed to be adopted this month, which she put together with the assistance of senior staff.
“We developed strategies and discussed the implications of cutting the budget to meet next year’s anticipated revenues. We developed a host of ideas for cost-savings, and looked at every program and service to see where we could cut internally with minimal impact to the public. I believe we have put together a budget that we can all live with,” she says.
But issues and problems aside, Jacobs reports that the best part of her role as city manager is “working with a council and staff who work well together and have the best interest of the city at heart.”
“This is a great place to work with really wonderful hard working people,” she says. “The challenge is getting to know the city council better and learning the behind-the-scenes politics.”
The writer, Debbie L. Sklar is a 20-plus year journalism veteran residing in Southern California, where she is a writer, columnist and editor for many local, regional and national publications. She is a regular contributor to PublicCEO.com and may be reached via e-mail at DLSwriter@cox.net.