Ken Pulskamp (2011)

Mentoring, disaster recovery, transparency

Position: City Manager, Santa Clarita, CA

Best known for: 1) Creating an award-winning mentoring program for all city employees that has increased internal promotions. 2) Overseeing recovery efforts 11 times during his career after natural disasters. Although each event caused tens of millions of dollars of damage, he led rebuilding processes that improved the cities’ infrastructure. 3) As head of the League of California Cities’ City Manager Department during the 2010 Bell, CA, scandal, he promoted transparency of local government employee compensation and the value of ethical management.

Public service career: Pulskamp began his career in 1978 as an intern with the city of Fresno, and later became a management analyst. In 1982, he became deputy city manager of the city, and later served as assistant city manager for Bakersfield and Santa Clarita. He was appointed city manager of Santa Clarita in 2002.

Biggest challenge: Prioritizing competing demands and melding them into a reasoned budget. This work is complicated by the uncertainties of California’s finances and the fact that Pulskamp has to present his budget, which depends partly on state funds, to the city council before the state finalizes its budget.

Greatest reward: “I gain a lot of satisfaction from building communities and leaving a legacy for future generations. It’s really rewarding for me to be in a profession that allows me think about how services and capital improvement projects will affect the community where I live decades or even centuries from now.”

Why public service: Pulskamp says that public service pretty much chose him. He, like many others, was influenced by JFK’s “ask not” speech; public service was an opportunity to give back and have an impact on his community.