Speaker Bios


Speaker Bios

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Aaron Adams                     
Aaron Adams began his public service career in 1990 in the Parks and Recreation Department for the City of Escondido and the Human Resources Department in Coconino County, Arizona. After an internship with the City of Temecula in 1995, Aaron was hired by the City of San Clemente. In 1996, Aaron returned to Temecula where he has held a number of positions over the past 20 years including Management Analyst, Senior Management Analyst, Executive Director of Community Services, Assistant City Manager, and City Manager. Aaron has been serving as the City Manager for the City of Temecula since 2012.

Aaron holds a Masters’ degree in Management & International Business from the University of Redlands, and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration & Human Resources from Northern Arizona University. Aaron also studied Economic & Political Studies at Cambridge in the UK, and Spanish at the University of Granada in Spain.

The City of Temecula’s operating budget is over $66 million with a population of approximately 109,000. The City is also the heart of Southern California Wine Country and the center of an annual $625 million dollar tourism industry that encompasses Temecula Valley vineyards, wineries, championship golf courses, Pechanga Resort & Casino, and a restored downtown district. Temecula has been consistently ranked within the top 10 safest Cities in the Nation by FBI’s violent crime statistics for populations over 100,000 and is noted in the Kosmont-Rose Institute’s top 60 “least expensive” cities to do business with in the United States.

Mike Alvarez Cohen
Mike Cohen, MBA, is a co-founder of Peak Democracy Inc -- the leading provider of online civic engagement services that increase public trust in government. Peak Democracy has collaborated with hundreds of government agencies to power over 2,500 online forums that have attracted over 400,000 online attendees. These government collaborations have enabled Mike to develop an expertise in the best practices of how online civic engagement can be used to increase public trust in government. Mike has MBA and engineering degrees from Harvard and Tufts, and he held various executive management positions with high tech companies in Silicon Valley.
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Troy Butzlaff
Troy Butzlaff currently serves as the City Manager of the City of Azusa. He has over 25 years of public sector experience having served in various administrative and management positions with the cities of Placentia, Palm Springs, Indian Wells, Diamond Bar, Chino, and La Verne.

In 2006, Troy was recognized by the International City/County Management Association with the distinguished Credentialed Manager designation. He is actively involved with the League of California Cities and serves on the City Managers Department Pension Reform Committee and chairs the Department’s OPEB Task Force. He previously served as chair of the Department’s Government Transparency and Civic Engagement Committee.

Troy holds both a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of La Verne. In addition, he is a graduate of several distinguished institutes and programs including: the Berkeley Executive Seminar at the University of California Berkeley; the Gettysburg Leadership Institute and the Williamsburg Leadership Institute.
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Stephen Groner
Stephen Groner is the founder and president of S. Groner Associates a marketing firm that works with municipalities on addressing community and health issues. SGA’s work focuses on using communication, psychology and data driven metrics to influence and change behaviors. The firm’s recent work for the Environmental Protection Agency was recognized by Public Relations Society of America as the best public service campaign in the country for reducing cancer risk from contaminated fish consumption.

Mr. Groner started his career as a civil engineer for Los Angeles County Public Works. He initially worked on technical and policy issues, before shifting his focus to public affairs and communications. There he led the development of some of the largest municipal public outreach programs in the country regarding recycling, infrastructure and water issues.

Mr. Groner also is very activity in the community and serves on the board of three non-profits the US Zero Waste Business Council, Social Venture Partners and Friends of Ballona Wetlands.
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Joan Kling
Joan’s passion is to help others find the light within and to give them permission to let that light shine for all to see. Her lifelong mission is to make the world a better place one person at a time, one light at a time. Joan has been training government workers throughout California for 20 years. She draws from her 30 years in local government experience at four different cities in San Diego County. Her 24 years in Code Enforcement has made her an expert in resolving neighborhood conflicts. Using her knowledge of Transactional Analysis and her Master Degree in Executive Leadership Joan excels in self leadership, team leadership and organizational leadership.

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Katharina Pick
Katharina Pick is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Drucker School of Management. Professor Pick came from Harvard University, where she received her PhD in organizational behavior. Her research examines the internal group dynamics of corporate boards of directors with a particular focus on the psychology of board membership, speaking up behavior, and board process in decision-making and conflict resolution. Recently, she has written on the subject of boardroom dynamics and board leadership. Other research interests include gender and leadership, role negotiation and social identity in high status groups, and sensemaking and diffusion of deviant organizational behavior. She teaches MBA courses on women in leadership, organizational behavior and theory, and teams. Outside of work Pick is an avid tennis player, enjoys travel, playing guitar, film, and live music.
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Kristina Ray
Kristina Ray brings 25 years of experience to her role as communications manager for the City of Carlsbad, a coastal town of more than 100,000 located in north San Diego County. Working directly for the city manager, Tina oversees a centralized communication team that handles public outreach and involvement for all departments in this full service city.

Prior to joining the City of Carlsbad, Tina was the vice president of a communication consulting firm specializing in issues management for local, regional, state and federal government agencies. She started her career in Washington, D.C., working for two former White House press secretaries. Other experience includes working as a local columnist for a regional daily newspaper and an instructor of journalism and pubic relations at San Diego State University.

Tina has a bachelor’s degree in communication from the University of San Diego and a master’s degree in communication from San Diego State University. She also has her certification in public involvement from the International Association of Public Participation.
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Bill Statler
Bill served as the Director of Finance & Information Technology for the City of San Luis Obispo for twenty-two years and for ten years as finance officer for the City of Simi Valley before that. Under his leadership, the City of San Luis Obispo received national recognition for excellence in its financial planning and reporting systems.

Bill has also played a large leadership role in the municipal finance profession. He served on the Board of Directors of the League of California Cities in 2009-10 and as President of the League’s Fiscal Officers Department in 2002-03. He was President of the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers (CSMFO) in 2001 and served on its Board of Directors and as a Chair and Senior Advisor on several committees. Additionally, he served as a member of the California Committee on Municipal Accounting and on the GFOA’s Budget and Fiscal Policy Committee.

In 2011, Bill was awarded the CSMFO’s Distinguished Service Award for dedicated service and outstanding contribution to the municipal finance profession; and in 2012, he received the Cal-ICMA’s Ethical Hero Award for his services to the City of Bell in the aftermath of well-publicized scandals.

After 37 years of public service, Bill retired from the City of San Luis Obispo in May 2010. In the “third act” of his career, Bill continues to be deeply involved in the municipal finance profession as a consultant, trainer and writer, including co-authoring the Guide to Local Government Finance in California, published by Solano Press Books in July 2012.

Pat West
Pat was born in Inglewood, California and grew up in the Los Angeles area.

Pat has an MBA from California State University, Dominguez Hills; a Masters Degree in Recreation Administration from California State University, Los Angeles; and a BA Degree in Social Sciences from the University of California, Irvine.

Pat started working for cities at the age of 16 as an Ocean Lifeguard in Huntington Beach. He went on to be the Assistant Director of the Recreational Instructional Program at UCLA, and worked for twenty-five years with the City of Paramount as the Parks and Recreational Director, Community Development Director/Executive Director of the Redevelopment Agency, eleven years as the City Manager. In August 2005, Pat was appointed the Director of Community Development and Executive Director of the Redevelopment Agency in Long Beach. Pat was appointed City Manager of Long Beach and began in that position on September 24, 2007.

Pat has been married to Madelyn for 39 years. They have a daughter, Stacy, a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, and a son David, a graduate of California State University, Long Beach and University of Southern California.
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Grant Yates
Grant Yates has over 30 years of local government experience. His career began with the City of Carlsbad in 1986 where he served as the City’s Employment Services Manager for over 5 years. In 1991, he moved to the City of Temecula where he held a number of positions including, Financial Services Administrator, Human Resources Director, Assistant to the City Manager and Deputy City Manager.

In November of 2012, Grant was appointed City Manager for the City of Lake Elsinore, California where he oversees a General Fund budget of almost $40 million. Over the last 2 years, the City of Lake Elsinore has been the fastest growing City in the County and the third fastest growing City in the State. The City is approximately 30% developed and has a current population of over 58,000 residents.

Grant holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Public Administration. He passionately believes in public service and has a strong organizational development background, which has served him well in rapidly growing communities and organizations.