City Management under COVID-19: Learning from Early Impacted States Washington and California

City Manager JJ Murphy of Palmdale, California, and Chief Administrative Officer Bob Harrison of Renton, Washington share their experience maintaining city operations, while working with their counties in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on preparing their employees and community for “the day after.”

Key Takeaways:

At the Onset of COVID-19: Continuity of City Operations

  • Providing services online (i.e. payments, court sessions, meetings with city hall departments)
  • Re-organizing employees according to demand for city services and needs, repurposing those cannot work remotely, such as the city’s EMS operations (i.e food delivery for elderly).
  • Embracing new technology and virtual way of work

Ongoing: Maintaining Positive Relationships and Motivating Employees during COVID-19

  • Fostering connection of employees to one another and to the organization (hosting daily calls, social meetings, and professional forums)
  • Emphasizing the role of health and wellbeing in decision-making
  • Setting by example

Ongoing: Navigating County, State & Federal Directives

  • Policy challenges and solutions regarding homelessness and “essential businesses”

Moving Forward: Strategic Considerations

  • Transparency when looking at “the day after” COVID-19
  • Planning for a future of virtual engagement with residents
  • Addressing community pain points (i.e.unemployment, fiscal, and mental health) with task forces and programs
  • Creating new collaborations (non-profits, NGO’s, etc)
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