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City kicks off leadership academy

Colorful Pie Charts and Blazing Sirens Mark First Two Sessions

Glen Oyoung

Glenn Oyoung

This month of May marked the kick-off of the City of Arcadia’s Leadership Academy program, a new initiative developed by city staff to educate residents about city operations, provide city management a means to understand Arcadians’ needs, and to develop the next generation of civic leaders and volunteers. The Academy is the idea of City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto, who brought it to Arcadia from his previous experiences working in the city of La Palma.

The Leadership Academy’s first class of 20 participants is being exposed to each part of the city’s operations. Over the course of seven weeks participants will visit and hear presentations from the City Manager & Elected Officials, the Fire Department, Public Works, Development Services, the Library and Museum Services, Recreation and Community Services, and the Police Department.

City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto

City Manager Dominic Lazzaretto

Every Academy participant hails from Arcadia. It was apparent from the first session that volunteerism and a spirit of getting more involved were common motivators amongst the inaugural class for joining. “I’m at the point in life where I have the time, skills, and resources to give back to the community,” said Academy participant Deborah Lewis. “The [city] staff has been excellent,” she continued, “their enthusiasm for the city and their jobs is stellar and a direct reflection on Arcadia.”

The participants range in age and occupation, with a fairly even distribution of people with jobs and of people who are retired or near-retirement. “The mix of the class is great!” said Linda Garcia, Special Projects Manager with the City of Arcadia who is organizing the Academy on behalf of the city. “We have men and women of different ages, backgrounds, and experience [which is] perfect,” she continued.

Fire Chief Kurt Norwood

Fire Chief Kurt Norwood

In the first session, Mayor John Wuo welcomed the Academy class and thanked them for their interest in getting involved. He mentioned that when he first started in public service that there was a lot to learn, and that the structure of the Leadership Academy was perfect for anyone interested in volunteering more. City Clerk Gene Glasco gave an overview of his responsibilities and shared his enthusiasm for volunteering for Arcadia, where he was born and raised.

City Manager Lazzaretto impressed the participants with a detailed and energetic presentation on the background of Arcadia’s organization as a charter city and the general roles and responsibilities of elected officials and city staff. He also shared Arcadia’s pension reform over the years in light of reduced support from the state.

Administrative Services Director Hue Quach shared many fascinating facts about the city’s $57 million dollar budget. Perhaps the most surprising fact of the night came to light when Quach asked everyone to guess what portion of every dollar in property tax goes towards the operations of the city of Arcadia. The answer – less than a dime; only $0.096. Quach provided a detailed overview of inflows and expenses to the city.

The second session was hosted the same night that several Arcadia Fire Department resources were deployed to assist with the fires raging in San Diego county. With that backdrop, participants were treated to an overview of the Fire Department by Chief Kurt Norwood who was appointed Chief on May 1st by Lazzaretto. “We have a very capable, multi-faceted department,” said Chief Norwood. He shared key details about the department’s organization, personnel, and budget including the different roles within the department – from firefighter to paramedic to chief.

Arcadia’s Fire Department is an Insurance Service Office (ISO) Class 1-rated Fire Department, one of only 60 in the nation and 7 in California. This is the highest rating that ISO gives to fire departments and reflects the ability of a department to protect property.

This premier status has been maintained in spite of the tough decision by previous administrations to transition from a four-man crew on fire engines to a three-man crew in the face of budget cuts. Many cities have gone to this reduced engine crew, but Arcadia’s engine crews are supported by an additional hybrid firefighter/paramedic to maintain fire protection service levels.

Asked hypothetically by one of the participants what he would do with an additional $1 million per year to his existing $13.7 million dollar budget, Chief Norwood responded that he’d “add another 3 firefighters” and invest in other areas to cope with Arcadia’s evolving needs.

One of the highlights of the evening was when a call came in from the Rite-Aid on Foothill Boulevard due to smoke. Academy participants were able to witness the amazing speed in which the responding three-man engine crew changed into their gear and sped off, sirens blazing, to respond. They later returned with news that an air conditioning unit was at fault and that no damage or injuries occurred.

Battalion Chief Barry Spriggs gave a tour of Station 106, which was a highlight for many Academy participants. Chief Spriggs and his staff explained the purpose of all the equipment including the fire engine, ladder (truck), and covered the gear in each truck as well as the heavy “turnout” gear that firefighters wear. At the end of the session Chief Spriggs filled participants in on the city’s Emergency Preparedness Plan and encouraged everyone to prepare for emergencies by stocking up on water, food, and other supplies that would be necessary during an earthquake or other disruption.

City staff is watching the Leadership Academy closely and has committed to promoting the event more actively fo the next round given the overwhelmingly positive response from the inaugural class. — By Glenn Oyoung Glenn Oyoung, a founder of turn3 Creative marketing and merchandising services, lives in Arcadia with his wife, two daughters, and three dogs.

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