One of the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority’s (California JPIA) newest members, the City of Lemon Grove, is a community of more than 26,000 residents located in eastern San Diego County. The city elected to participate in the Authority’s Primary Liability Program, Excess Workers’ Compensation Program, and Property Program as of July 1, 2020, seeking improvements to the city’s day-to-day risk management oversight as well as reduced program expenditures.
“The City of Lemon Grove’s staff is willing to learn, grow, and improve its exposure to risk in order to better serve the city’s residents,” said California JPIA Senior Risk Manager Alex Mellor, who has collaborated with the city to address contractual risk transfer strategies, code enforcement best practices, human resources principles and policies, ergonomics, design immunity, facilities security, and loss prevention.
After a series of burglaries at the public works yard, staff collaborated with the California JPIA to conduct a site assessment by an experienced individual with a significant background in law enforcement. Based on the consultant’s recommendations, the city re-established security measures around the facility’s perimeter and installed an actively monitored security camera system. Since the city enacted new measures, it has not experienced another burglary.
“We’re taking full advantage of everything that the California JPIA has to offer,” said Lemon Grove City Manager Lydia Romero. “Risk management has become part of the DNA of our community.”
During the height of COVID, Lemon Grove City Hall remained open because its offices allowed for social distancing. While some employees worked from home, Romero observed that those who went in to work daily showed signs of stress and pressure related to the pandemic.
“I try to stay on the cutting edge of making sure that our staff members are not only physically safe but also mentally well,” said Romero, who, among other initiatives, has advanced a “Bring Your Baby to Work” policy, which allows employees to balance childcare responsibilities with their public service positions.
Having read an article in the Harvard Business Review about how pets in the workplace reduce stress, Romero thought: let’s adopt a pet. She thoroughly vetted the idea with employees, who agreed to temporarily foster a cat from the Chula Vista Animal Care Facility, Lemon Grove’s animal services provider, for three months. That three months turned into a permanent home at Lemon Grove City Hall for “Princess Tyga,” also known as “City Kitty.”
“Princess Tyga was brought on as an emotional support animal during COVID, and she has really done her job effectively,” said Romero, who praised the year-old, cream-and-gray Tabby for her gentle and adaptable temperament. “There’s no stress release like hearing her purr engine go.”
The regal feline is supported by all staff members, who provide food and water, bedding, toys, and other supplies. She greets employees and the public from a perch near the front door, cruises various offices for treats and pets, meows at closed doors, plays with toys, and catnaps throughout the building. Even staff from the local sheriff’s department, which shares an office building with city hall, visit the lobby to pet City Kitty when they need the stress release that she brings, said Romero.
“I can tell you from personal experience that, after a tough phone call or angry message, having her jump up on my desk and petting her calms me down,” she said. “As the leader of this organization, it is my job to make sure that our employees are not only physically ready but also mentally ready to take care of the community that we serve.”
Romero makes mentoring, coaching, and “managing by walking around” a priority, taking a genuine interest in her team as whole people, not just employees. Lemon Grove also has taken advantage of California JPIA training to address workplace violence and harassment and programming specific to supervisors.
“As a small jurisdiction, with less than 50 full-time employees, Lemon Grove does not have the capacity to support a full training program,” said Romero. “The California JPIA offers high-quality resources at low to no cost.”
Providing innovative risk management solutions for its public agency partners for more than 40 years, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (California JPIA) is one of the largest municipal self-insurance pools in the state, with more than 120 member cities and other governmental agencies. Members actively participate in shaping the organization to provide important coverage for their operations. The California JPIA provides innovative risk management solutions through a comprehensive portfolio of programs and services, including liability, workers’ compensation, pollution, property, and earthquake coverage, as well as extensive training and loss control services. For more information, please visit the California JPIA’s website at cjpia.org.