Along with some members of the city staff and City Council, I attended the League of California Cities Conference last week. It's always an informative time of learning best practices, community engagement tips and networking with fellow city leaders in our state.
While it had been a few years since we’ve attended this event, I was impressed with one takeaway principle: What we’re doing in the city of Tehachapi is right on par if not above what others are considering or just taking the initiative to complete. Areas like social media engagement, information technology, policing and economic development have placed us in the forefront of city government despite being much smaller than most of our counterparts in attendance.
We spoke with communities that are addressing zoning challenges for both commercial and residential issues; these were the same challenges that the city of Tehachapi and its residents came together and addressed in our zoning code more than five years ago. We planned for the future appropriately and are currently seeing larger cities with more resources struggling to play catch-up. It was a surprise while at the same time an affirmation about the quality of people we have working in our community and addressing these issues on a daily basis.
Many of our emergency preparedness efforts were reaffirmed by city officials in Thousand Oaks who dealt with both a mass shooting and the Woolsey Fire within days of each other last year. Some of their best practices and approaches to disaster response and recovery are in our toolbox as well for when these unfortunate events occur.
Other communities are dealing with similar changes that we face in Tehachapi. They are addressing changing demographics, new residents and the additional opportunities that come with that but also ensuring they maintain their identity and quality of life. As I have mentioned before, who we are matters and it helps shape who we will become in the future.
Leveraging technology in a variety of ways to both streamline the government process and deliver faster results to residents was a major topic of discussion as every municipal leader prepares for the future. That is certainly one thing we can do better, but I’m happy to report we’re getting there. A recently launched agenda center on the website has helped make agendas and minutes a little more accessible.
We’ve added easier pay points at our front counters at City Hall and the Police Department and we have a few new applications coming online shortly that will deliver faster results for citizen requests. We hope as the budget allows to continue to add these types of resources that eliminate red tape and increase productivity for staff and response time for residents.
The Tehachapi model is certainly working, as affirmed by both presentations at this convention and conversations with other city officials. It’s amazing how many people have visited our city and are impressed with the cleanliness, the tourist attractions, the festivals and the enjoyable experience they have. It’s a testament to residents, volunteers, council leadership and city staff’s ongoing efforts to keep Tehachapi a wonderful place.
And of course, after a few days in the gridlock of Southern California, I am ever the more appreciative to live in Tehachapi and can certainly understand the desires of others to join us in our great city.
Greg Garrett is Tehachapi's city manager.