2018 Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program
Harvard Kennedy School | Scholarship Sponsored by The Ferguson Group and eCIVIS
Opal Mauldin-Jones, ICMA-CM
City Manager, Lancaster, Texas
In her role as city manager of Lancaster, Texas, which began in 2011, Opal Mauldin-Jones has served as the city’s chief executive officer. Reporting to Lancaster’s mayor and six councilmembers, she oversees all city operations and a $55.39 million operating budget. Twenty staff members report directly to Mauldin-Jones, and the community has 299 full-time employees.
Located in Dallas County, Texas, Lancaster’s population of nearly 38,000 is predominately African-American and Hispanic. The full-service city is less than 50 percent developed.
In addition to day-to-day oversight, Mauldin-Jones provides leadership and direction in the development of the city’s short- and long-term goals. She also represents the city with intergovernmental agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses, with a focus on recruiting retail, commercial, and industrial development and job creation.
Mauldin-Jones faces two chief strategic challenges in her work: sustaining change in the organizational culture as the community grows and overcoming the lingering effects of fiscal, man-made, and natural disasters.
Lancaster suffered devastating fires in the early 1900s, tornadoes in 1994 and 2012, a fiscal crisis with the loss of 40 percent of general operating funds in 2000, along with a 500-year flood in 2004 and the Great Recession of 2008. Each time the community began to emerge from one of these crises, there was a change in leadership or the economy, both of which delayed the recovery progress.
“Being the longest serving city manager to date for the community,” says Mauldin-Jones, “my objective is to ensure we establish policies, procedures, and culture that will sustain the city through any fiscal, physical, administrative leadership, or management challenge.”
Mauldin-Jones’s immediate goal is to “provide stability that has been lacking in the executive leadership of the organization while bringing forth innovative and sustainable service.” Her long-term goal is to teach at a local college or university and pass on her knowledge and experience to the public servants of tomorrow.
Charles Bush, ICMA-CM
City Manager, Sequim, Washington
As manager of Sequim, Washington, a city of 7,280 residents located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Charles Bush oversees municipal operations and reports to seven elected city councilmembers. Sequim is a full-service community, except for fire and library services, and operates one of the only municipal Class A reclaimed water facilities in the state of Washington.
Sequim has an annual budget of $33 million and 77 full-time equivalent employees, nine of whom report to Bush.
Like many cities in the era of government devolution, Sequim faces challenging community problems that cut across traditional departmental lines. As a result, Bush notes the city relies more heavily on community partnerships to address emerging and persistent issues, working with Habitat for Humanity, for example, to help residents, particularly the elderly, remain in their homes.
Bush finds that limited time and resources require him to be creative in his strategies. “I am committed to being my best in all of the areas where I serve,” says Bush. “I love my community and do not have a goal beyond being the city manager. I want to continue to grow professionally so that I can be of better service.”
In 2011, Bush fell seriously ill with a mysterious illness that defied diagnosis. After a year-and-a-half, the Mayo Clinic finally diagnosed him with chronic fatigue syndrome. Over the next two years, Bush found ways to adapt, including developing an extensive ongoing wellness program, so that he could return to service as city manager.
“The experience was humbling,” he states. “It deepened my appreciation for our profession. I take nothing for granted and measure every opportunity.”
Bush is active in professional activities at the state and national levels, often paying the training registration fees himself.
Participants who are awarded the Harvard Kennedy School scholarships have the opportunity to step away from their daily routines for three weeks, engage with other executives in team efforts to resolve tough issues, and renew commitments to their respective professions. Bush and Mauldin-Jones were selected from a pool of 21 applicants by a panel of ICMA members who were all past program recipients.
ICMA is working to secure funding for 2019 scholarships. Information is available from Felicia Littky at email@example.com.