Headshot of Donna Gayden

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Donna Gayden

City Manager

Long Beach, New York

ICMA Member since 2011

 

Turning the City’s Credit Rating Around

The city of Long Beach hired me to come in for six to nine months to help them do a balanced, more realistic budget because they were having issues with budgeting, including borrowing money for payouts and everyday expenses. Of course, the Moody’s ratings were down, so as we moved forward, we balanced out the budget and Moody’s saw that we were trying to go in a more positive direction. So, instead of having a Baa3 with a negative outlook, we ended up getting a Baa3 with a positive outlook.

“Long Beach Was the #1 Most Fiscally Stressed City in the Entire State of New York.”

That is not where you want to be on such a list. I can say proudly today we are no longer on the list as being significantly financially stressed. We took a hard look at everything; we knew we had to do some cutting and we did some basic cutting by starting a procurement team. You’ll be surprised how people cut back on their spending when they know that others are looking at it, especially folks from other departments. We’re turning the financials around, we have balanced budgets, and the city no longer borrows for their payouts.

How to Make a More Meaningful Impact on the Community You Serve

You need to look at ICMA and look to your fellow members at ICMA. Don’t be afraid to go out and ask for others’ opinions or advice. Don’t try to create a play book right off the bat; take a look at what is already out there and talk to others on how it can be done. A lot of governments are struggling right now, and I think that the managers and even the councils need to reach out to other members to get advice on the best way to address those issues.

Avoiding a Stagnant Career

Think outside the box. You need to have mentors and your mentor has to be honest with you. If you have someone that's constantly telling you what you think you want to hear, they are not the right mentor. You have to look at what you enjoy doing professionally and move from there. Just be true to yourself and then when you feel like you’re getting a little stagnant, talk to your mentor, talk to your friends, talk to your colleagues, and see what else you could do.

“ICMA Helps Me a Lot!”

I read the SmartBrief that comes through every day, and I always go down to the bottom of the page where you can get those free newsletters. One I just got was about how to avoid burnout. I’m sharing that with my executive team because at some point, especially during these hard past couple of years, it’s easy to become burnt out. So, that will be in my “tool shed” from now on, and there are so many resources on the ICMA website that you can take advantage of as well.

Stay tuned for the video interview with Donna—coming soon!

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