They say that there’s no trial like trial by fire and for Ken Pulskamp, his year as President of the City Manager’s department for the League of California Cities was absolutely a trial by fire.
It was in 2010, while serving as department president, that Ken was thrust into the national spotlight with the “Bell Debacle.” Ken responded to media, colleagues and the public with a “high road” approach and led our profession admirably through this difficult time.
Ken demonstrated by example how City Managers could move forward through transparency and openness. As part of this effort, Ken authored the new city manager salary guidelines that were ultimately adopted by both the League of California Cities and the ICMA boards of directors.
Additionally, he authored several articles on the subject of moving forward with our heads held high; transparency in local government; and openness on a large scale. He continually made himself available as a resource to the media, city managers and the public.
Ken was awarded the inaugural Wes McClure Award from the League of California Cities, recognizing his decades of achievement for leadership, mentoring, transparency, and dedication to the field of professional city management.
Pulskamp received a standing ovation at the February 2011 conference from the California City Managers who attended the awards program; recognition for his successful leadership over the last year as president of the City Managers’ Department of the League and his handling of the “Bell Debacle.”
“I am completely humbled by this award and especially for receiving it in memory of the late Wes McClure. Wes was a role model for city managers and receiving an award in his honor is a career highlight for me,” commented Pulskamp.
During his year as President, Ken was also instrumental in changing the League’s City Manager’s department by-laws to allow Assistant City Managers to become officers of the department. As part of his work, Ken helped to write and publish a “best practices manual” for cities to use in preparing the next generation of city managers, an issue Ken has long been passionate about.
During his more than three decades in local government in California, Ken has served the League of California Cities on policy committees, as a conference speaker, as President of an Assistant’s group, help train the next generation of managers and he regularly participates in programs and work efforts to help achieve these goals and as the chair of the International Committee.
Ken’s collaborative style of management has made him a catalyst for innovation and problem solving that have resulted in new programs, and ways of conducting city business that have yielded awards for Ken and for his city. In 2007, Ken won the League’s Diversity award and in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010, he helped his City bring home several prestigious Helen Putnam awards for innovative programs and projects. He has authored articles in Western City Magazine and the City Manager’s Department newsletter on topics ranging from budgeting and disaster response to strategic planning and police services, always ready to share his knowledge, successes and vast experience with others.
Ken is a credentialed manager and member in good standing of ICMA. He served as a representative for an international exchange to Australia and also as a representative for an exchange in Indonesia for strategic planning and technology. Ken has served ICMA as an author for PM Magazine and as a speaker at numerous conferences, promoting the profession.
Ken Pulskamp has mentored many aspiring city managers and even several who have become city managers. Ken helped create an award-winning mentoring program that empowers city employees to ascend the career ladder of city management. He regularly participates in “speed coaching” and mentoring for different professional organizations, helping to train up the next generation of managers, through the Preparing the next Generation committee Ken is a regular speaker at conferences for ICMA, the League of California Cities, Independent Cities and California Contract Cities, MMASC, and MMANC on topics that help managers including: budgeting, communications, strategic planning, police services, air quality and diversity. In 2010, Ken was the keynote speaker at the California State University, Northridge Masters in Public Administration program graduation where he spoke about the noble profession of city management, encouraging the next generation, and proudly touting all that government and its workers have accomplished over the years for the good of mankind.
Of all the many speaking engagements Ken has performed, he is perhaps most well known for his speech and handouts about balance in the workplace. He has received many letters and emails from attendees, commending “the balance speech,” and praising his promotion of balance in the workplace.
Ken has taught at the college level, including California State Fresno, Long Beach and the University of LaVerne. He has taught courses in economics, macro and microeconomics, strategic planning, budgeting and communications.
Under Ken’s leadership, Santa Clarita was recognized by CNN Magazine as a top community in the country in which to live. In 2008, Santa Clarita was named the Most Business Friendly City in Los Angeles County for its business practices that allow businesses to thrive. In 2008, Santa Clarita was recognized as a Model Community by the South Coast Air Quality District for numerous programs including: transit-oriented development, community energy partnerships, energy efficiency, and being an air-quality advocate. Every department in the City has received awards and recognition for creativity, innovation and achievement; a true testament to Ken’s ability to lead, to model the way and to empower his staff.
On the occasion of his 20-year anniversary with the City of Santa Clarita, the City employees threw him a surprise party, complete with a gift of a collage of photos of him over the years that they all signed. This action speaks volumes about how his employees feel about him.
During his 22 years with Santa Clarita, Ken has literally helped to build a new city from the ground up. His work has yielded a bonanza of new programs, projects and infrastructure including: 20 new parks; 60 miles of trails and paseos, an open space district that has acquired thousands of acres of land; a $245 million, 8.5 mile roadway that some say could never be built; preservation of 843 acres once earmarked as the world’s largest landfill; two new state-of-the-art libraries (the second to open in 2012); creation of the nationally-renowned Cowboy Festival; creation of a stormwater utility in response to State mandates; a 100% track record for a balanced on-time budget with no staff lay-offs or reductions in service; and the creation of an internship program in all city departments, to name a few of his accomplishments. Under Ken’s leadership, city employees embrace the City’s philosophy for a humanistic approach, valuing creativity, ethics, a futuristic approach, an enthused workforce, a non-bureaucratic government and excellence.
In the community, Ken is well known for his great ability to bring people together and create partnerships with various agencies and organizations. Some of these partnerships have yielded huge dividends for the community including: Central Park, the WorkSource Center, Boys and Girls Club, the Performing Arts Center, Creekview Park, and new roads to name a few.
He has served his community on several non profit boards including United Way where he served as President and as a board member on the larger, Greater Los Angeles Board. He served as President of the American Heart Association Board and co-founded the Foundation for Children’s Dental Health, helping to bring dental care to low-income children. He also served as a board member for the California City Management Foundation, where his Assistant City Manager currently serves as a proud member.
Since the City’s birth in 1987, Santa Clarita has weathered 11 federallydeclared disasters. Ken’s steady leadership, quick response and advance planning have helped Santa Clarita physically and financially come through each of these disasters stronger than before.
Ken projects an easy, collegiate style and a low-key management style. He is an assertive leader, is results-oriented, yet humble.
In his spare time, Ken enjoys international travel, bike riding, spending time with his two daughters that he raised as a single dad, and cooking.