Interview with Past MMASC President Troy Brown,
City Manager of Tracy
Written by Ryan Park
What city do you work for, how long have you been there, and what’s your title?
I have been the City Manager for the City of Tracy since September of 2014. It has been approximately 8 months since I have been in this role.
How has it been getting settled into your role as City Manager?
It has been great! For me, the biggest difference is the change in my day-to-day work. Before, I used to manage a variety of projects. Now, I facilitate a lot of conversations and move things forward. I feel fortunate to have the years of experience in local government and believe I am well equipped to serve this community.
What initially got you interested in local government?
I started my career in Southern California as the Recreation Leader for the City of Santa Clarita. I was fortunate to be in a very progressive organization that really enabled me to build my own programs and develop my own services in the Recreation Department. I remember making an impact on 150 people through a family reunion event. It brought me such joy knowing that I was able to make an impact in the community. Eventually, I started to get promoted within the organization and had the opportunity to make a greater impact in peoples’ lives through land use decisions and policy implementations. After 22 years of service in local government, I am able to share a storied career and cannot imagine doing anything else.
What is the most memorable part of your past experiences and how has that shaped you to lead the organization you’re in?
One of my most memorable experiences is being a part of a creative and empowering work environment. As a young recreation leader, I remember trying to do the best that I can do.
One day, the City Manager heard about
the work I was doing and I felt incredibly empowered. I would like my staff to have that feeling as well.
I push staff to develop their own ideas, stretch the envelope by challenging them and encourage them to do things differently. Ultimately, I believe if you empower people, it will build a foundation that will motivate them to be their best and bring a sense of accomplishment.
What do you think is the biggest issue(s) facing local government agencies?
I think that there are two big issues facing local government today. The first is the speed in which the world is changing. It took society years to evolve from the Industrial Revolution to the Information Age. Today, technology has developed four times as fast compared to steam engines. As the world changes at an alarming rate, I wonder if local government is nimble enough to keep up with the different levels of service and demand. I believe there are inherent things within government structure that will never change. However, technology is driving and pushing different levels of service in ways that we have never seen before.
The second challenge facing local government is identifying where the conversation about the transformation of services is happening. For example, our role as local government administrators is to develop good policies by hearing both sides of the argument. Right now, I think there is a strong divide on these issues. As individuals stand on opposite ends, it becomes challenging to make decisions. Moving forward, I think local government may engage citizens in a completely different way. Through policy and development, it is important to find a common ground without making the decision process more complicated.
How did you first hear about MMASC and what made you join?
I had the great fortune of working under a progressive City Manager who believed in professional development and guided me towards MMASC. When I joined the organization, I remember feeling special and part of something bigger. I believed in the mission so much that I too ended up serving a leadership role. It was the least I could do for this organization.
At the same time, I still keep in contact with the connections I made as a member. I have networks that were established 20 years ago that I still have today. Simply put, the ability to seek advice from your MMASC network is truly invaluable.
What keeps you renewing your membership?
I remember having a lot of energy going to MMASC events. It would motivate me to go back and implement good government practices in my organization. Every time I return to MMASC, I see young professionals aspiring to do good things in this profession. It motivates me to contribute back to an organization that builds the next generation of leaders. At the end of the day, I feel like MMASC was the place where I started to groom myself into local government. Although I am in Northern California, I will always have a special place in my heart for MMASC. It keeps me wanting to go back.
What is your best piece of career advice?
Spend time learning everything there is
to know about your role within the organization. If you get bored, try to find other opportunities that will motivate you to work hard.
Although I am using all kinds of new skills, I still lean on the things I learned in the past. Anyone that is aspiring to be a leader should hang onto the fire that motivates you because it will be the same energy that will help you get there. Remember to take the time to sit back and learn everything there is to know about your position. You will be much more rounded as a professional and get to apply those skill sets in your future positions.
What’s your favorite thing to do to unwind?
When I am home, I am a loving husband and father. I play golf and spend some time on a wakeboard boat. I make sure that when I’m not in the office, I am dedicating as much time to my family as I do in the organization. It’s through that separation that I can keep things balanced. If I took work home with me, I would start to make myself go crazy and lose that balance. Sometimes it’s hard to keep things in check, but that’s my philosophy. I work hard in the office, but when I am home, I spend time with my family.
What book is on your nightstand?
There is a book out there called, “Peaks and Valleys” by Dr. Spencer Johnson. The book is about a boy who lives on the valley floor and wants to live at the top of the mountain. Along the journey, the characters in the book face many trials and tribulations. Though battered and tired, the characters have a feeling of accomplishment after reaching their goal. However, they look across the mountain plain and see another valley that they have to cross to get to the top of another mountain that’s even higher.
I think that’s the story of professional development. It’s a series of frustration and hard work, but just when you think you’ve made it to the top, there’s always something better. Ultimately, we all have to find where we want to be in that journey. If we acknowledge the journey, we won’t find ourselves so lost and alone. I think “Peaks and Valleys” is a great book. It’s an easy read that touched me and helped me talk to others about the feeling of anxiousness in my career. I think it’s a quick and easy way to put into perspective what’s happening.
Want to learn more?