Nancy Fisher | 24th Street
|City Manager Scott Huth and a portion
of the recently-completely sidewalk project
in the Beach Colony. Photo Nancy Fisher.
Click on image to enlarge.
City Manager Scott Huth came to Del Mar almost three years ago with a reputation for getting things done, and has lived up to the promise. “Scott’s not a talker, he’s a doer,” says Mayor Lee Haydu. “He’s a progressive thinker who finds the funds and grants to get things done right now instead of talking about them for years.”
To understand the many responsibilities of a City Manager, residents can read the intimidating four-page job description on the City’s website, or, in terms of management structure, they can simply think of him as the CEO of a business corporation. Huth agrees. “If you use that model, the citizens of Del Mar would be considered the stockholders, the City Council would be the Board of Directors, I’d be the CEO, and the heads of each City Department would be the Vice Presidents. I work directly for the board, implementing their policies and ensuring that the City complies with all the laws and standards that govern it. And then you need the most important thing – teamwork with the departments.”
Where the corporate analogy breaks down a little, he explains, is that CEOs of corporations have the goal of delivering the highest financial return to shareholders, while his goal is to set the bar for delivering city services so high that it exceeds the expectations of Del Mar’s residents. “Some of Del Mar’s residents have some very high expectations,” he adds laughing, “so let’s say the ‘typical’ resident.” In general, though, he has no problem with criticism. “Having people criticize their government and services helps keep a check and balance, but you want it to be healthy and constructive, and something that guides us to good service. You also need to make sure that it’s what the community wants instead of a small group or an individual.”
Huth oversees the departments of Administrative Services, Finance, Planning and Community Development, Community Services, Fire Services, Sheriff’s Contract, and Public Works. He also has a staff of three in the City Manager’s Department which includes Assistant City Manager Mark Delin, Assistant to the City Manager Kristen Crane, and Senior Management Analyst Jon Terwilliger. Together they’re a mini-think tank that concentrates on the higher-level analytical work, projects, and support services to the other departments that takes up most of Huth’s and his team’s time.
In larger communities there is often enough staff to have an analytical layer within each department and, although some analysis still happens within departments, much of it ends up in the Manager’s Office. This, he says, takes up time that he’d rather spend working side-by-side with the departments that aren’t housed at City Hall, like Community Services, Fire Services, Public Works, and out in the community. The upside is that not having lots of employees and several layers of management allows staff to provide a higher level of service by streamlining processes and allowing more face-to-face interaction with their customers.
What does a typical day look like? “You can think of our office as a switching station where information is coming in from a variety of sources, some from the community and some from other departments, and you have to distill and react to it,” Huth says. “Each department, on a smaller scale, functions that same way.”
When pressed to talk more about his accomplishments so far, and if there was one of which he was especially proud, Huth insisted that it’s the process, not necessarily the results, that give him the most satisfaction. He pointed specifically to working with Del Mar resident Carol Kerridge, who spends so much volunteer time keeping our seniors safe with her NEST program, and to resident and Finance Committee member Tom McGreal, who, with a small group, spearheaded a grassroots campaign to help take control of Del Mar’s financial future by addressing the Pension Reserve.
McGreal is also happy with the process. “When the City asked the Finance Committee to tackle the pension issue, we knew that the solutions would present hard choices for the City,” says McGreal. “We worked very successfully with Scott and the staff to develop a pension reserve policy, which was adopted by the City Council last year. Del Mar will now be able to meet its long-term pension obligations. Dealing with topics like unfunded pension liability are never easy, but Scott and the staff worked very closely and cooperatively with the Finance Committee throughout the process.”
If Huth had to describe his management style, he’d say “quirky,” and that he doesn’t really fit the typical City Manager profile. “I say be approachable, be fair, and sometimes you have to be blunt. My philosophy is to work hard to make my co-workers a success. If I can do that, their success is going to shine through and give me and the Community everything we need, so if that’s the Kool-Aid I can pour in everyone’s cup it makes things a lot better.”
When asked how he connects with members of the community, Huth answered that he prefers one-on-one meetings or meetings with small groups to addressing a large crowd, and encourages everyone to give him a call, email him, or just come by City Hall. “This community has a huge level of volunteer spirit and that spirit is part of the wheel that keeps things turning. My motto is ’If the door is open, the store is open’. We are here to serve you.”
To contact Scott Huth, call him directly at 858-704-3630 or email him at email@example.com