Member Spotlight: Mark Danaj

Business investment thrives in communities that function effectively and are stable ­both politically and administratively.

ARTICLE | Oct 4, 2013

Mark Danaj is the assistant city manager/COO for Fremont, California. Located in the heart of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley, Fremont (pop. 215,000) prides itself on being a strategically urban, vibrant, and diverse community. Originally a small agricultural community, it has gradually developed into an industrial and technological power. General Motors opened a plant in the city in 1963, and by the end of the century Fremont was a hub for high-tech industry.

Today, Fremont is on a promising path toward economic recovery and is drawing notable attention for its renewal and growth. It recently ranked on the list of “Best Run Cities of America” by 24/7 Wall St.; was among those listed on the Reader’s Digest Sharpest, Smartest Cities” list; was voted a  Most Inventive City in America by The Daily Beast/Newsweek; and was ranked first in the nation for technology start-up businesses per capita, with 21 for every 1,000 residents, by San Francisco-based SizeUp.com. Within its 92-square miles, Fremont boasts over 42 million square feet of office, R&D, manufacturing, and warehouse building space. It is home to dozens of innovative and clean-tech firms including Amgen, Tesla Motors, Redwood Systems, Boston Scientific, and Western Digital.

Danaj leads the city’s labor relations and budget teams and oversees various city departments and operations, including leadership roles in the ambitious Downtown and Warm Springs Development Plans. His passion for local government is characterized by his 16 years of public management executive experience. He is the incoming chair of the Alameda County City Managers’ Association and serves on the ICMA Governmental Affairs and Policy Committee and as ICMA’s representative on the NLC Information Technology & Communications Steering Committee.


Rendering of Downtown Fremont, CA

On his Twitter account, Danaj describes himself as a #localgov professional/advocate in Silicon Valley; from which he tweets about Fremont and the local government profession. In one tweet, he heralds a Gallup poll that found 74% trust local government to handle local problems, while registering all-time lows in the public trust of state and federal government. He is also a promoter of social media and pioneering online civic engagement efforts that attempt to reach a broad segment of the community to supplement traditional outreach methods that too often result in hearing mostly from divergent ends of the spectrum.

 

Danaj enjoys being a guest blogger on Fremont’s new digital property, www.thinksiliconvalley.com, focusing on the dynamic, modern economic engine Fremont has become and advancing business in Silicon Valley. In a posting titled Being Investment-worthy: The Connection between City Budgets and Business Investment, he writes: “Business investment thrives in communities that function effectively and are stable ­both politically and administratively. It used to be a given that cities were financially solvent. Not only were they solvent, they had the best credit ratings and were synonymous with long-term stability. This has all changed. Cities used to be the ones asking businesses to vouch for their credit-worthiness, but the tide has turned. Businesses are now rightfully concerned about the cities where they are investing their hard-earned money.” Danaj will be carrying that message to Bangalore, Chennai, and Jaipur in November as he leads the staff side of a city economic development trade mission to India.

He finds the greatest value of ICMA membership to be the comprehensive offering of services. “It’s like having a world-class think tank standing behind you. Our profession is so broad in terms of challenges and opportunities, and on any given day the priorities change. From day-to-day operations to new models for budgeting and economic development, ICMA gives you the tools and contacts to be successful with the totality of what a modern, local government manager confronts.”

Prior to joining the city of Fremont, Danaj was a member of the senior staff of the city of San José, serving as human resources director and team lead of the Strategic Support City Service Area. He facilitated the service-delivery outcomes, performance measures, and budget development of five city departments. Before coming to California, he served as an assistant county administrator and in diverse department-head roles for Lake County, a large suburban county in the northern Chicago area. He is also a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government.

Danaj lives in the Bay Area with his wife, Kate, and their two boisterous boys, Gabriel and Joshua.

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