The Transition with Will Norris, City of Long Beach

This rainy November day is a perfect time to catch up with ELGL member Will Norris who graduated from Willamette MBA school and then moved to Long Beach City, California to begin work as a management assistant for the City. Will was an early member of ELGL and important in spreading our mission to other students and professionals in Salem. It is unfortunate for talented individuals such as Will to leave  Oregon for our rival to the South but it was an opportunity too good to pass up. (A topic for a later discussion: California’s proactive nature in retaining young talented local government professionals by offering positions such as the one Will has in Long Beach is sorely missing in Oregon. We step down off our soapbox and return to our feature story.)

Below you will learn more about Will’s decision to leave Oregon, his favorite rapper, the best happy hour spot in the area, and projects that he is taking on a management assistant.

What is your position title with the City of Long Beach, CA?

 Management Assistant in the City Manager’s Office

Job responsibilities?

The position rotates through four city departments supporting projects chosen by the City Manager. The responsibilities can vary widely between assignments. My responsibilities have ranged from data analysis, to capital budgeting to facilitating meetings.

Current projects you are working on:

 Projects tend to snowball through the program. Right now my projects include

    • Writing the business case for installing Advanced Meter Infrastructure on the City’s gas and water meters
    • Modeling workload in a consolidated Police and Fire 911 call center (currently separate operations)
    • General Government Affairs work (Policy analysis, writing correspondence)

Before the LBC you were in graduate school at Willamette, did you intend to leave Oregon after graduating?

Before accepting this position, I would have never thought that I would leave Oregon. There is still an Oregon sticker on my old 4Runner as I drive around Southern California.

The opportunity to work in a city of a half million in a metro area of around 14 million was just too good to pass up. The experience hasn’t disappointed either. However, Oregon is still my home.

We all know the LBC is the home of West Coast rap, will we ever hear a rap song about local government?

Maybe not rap, but Sublime did use samples from Long Beach Emergency Dispatchers on their self-titled album. The supervisor during my first rotation worked in the LB Emergency Communications Center while finishing college and knew the dispatchers whose voices appear on the album.

 Who is your favorite rapper?

My favorite rappers from the LA area are the Living Legends. Unfortunately, I am not a big Snoop Dogg fan. One interesting item I found in our City shared drive was a Press Release expressing the City’s regret for the passing of Nate Dogg and explaining the need for an increased Police presence around the funeral activities.

Any celebrity sightings in Long Beach?

None to-date. However, one of my friends from High School in Eugene now produces reality TV.  I tagged along with him to the birthday party of a cast member from Days of our Lives. I am not sure if that counts.

What is the financial situation in the LBC?

a.    Are they facing a budget crunch like many California cities?

There is certainly a budget crunch, but Long Beach isn’t in the same situation as the other California cities which have been in the news. Long Beach has been cutting for several years. Since FY2004, the City has shed 857 positions from a workforce of roughly 5,000. This has left the organization smaller, but stable.

Long Beach has also committed itself to “proportionate share” budget reductions. Each department is given reduction targets based on their relative size. Even Enterprise Funds are expected to reduce their budgets. This ensures that there will always be some level Library, Parks and other quality of life services instead of the City being solely Public Safety and Public Works.

 b.  Have you ever been paid with an IOU?

All of the paychecks have cleared so far. I’m sure that will continue to be the case.

Two things you miss the most about Oregon.

  • First is the ability to quickly get out of the City. It takes at least an hour of driving on twelve lane highways to get to any significant amount of open space.
  • The second is good coffee at every corner. There are some great coffee shops down here, but they are few and far between. Long Beach has two that I have found, compare that to Portland which has roughly the same population.

Two things you don’t miss from leaving Oregon.

  • The Mexican food in Southern California is amazing and cheap.
  • Sometimes it is nice that everything isn’t wet for nine months of the year.

What do you think about ELGL charging $20 dues?

It was the natural next step for the organization to keep growing. I know that ELGL has provided me with much more than $20 worth of value. There isn’t another organization that gives young public service professionals access to the speakers that ELGL does.

Who is your dream speaker for ELGL?

The one missing speaker has been the sitting Governor of Oregon. Washington’s Governor Gregoire has spoken to the group. Having the only Oregon Governor to be elected to three terms would be a dream speaker.

 a. Name two government types in California that would be good ELGL speakers?

I really haven’t had a chance to delve into the local network, so no recommendations just yet

Oregonians often blame Californians for their problems, do Californians do the same? Do Californians even recognize Oregon as a state?

I am sorry to say that Oregon doesn’t appear to enter the consciousness of Southern Californians very often (except for those nearing retirement, I’ve been asked how Bend was at least twice).

In general, people have been overly nice and welcoming. One thing I have noticed is many have moved here from elsewhere. The notion of being a native or multi-generation Californian isn’t nearly as prominent as in Oregon.

Your position with the LBC is for a limited duration. What are your plans future plans?

Most management assistants are asked to continue with the City in permanent positions. The current Development Services Director and Government Affairs Manager are former Management Assistants. However, nothing is guaranteed. Just in case, I will be on the job hunt again next year. I couldn’t ever see myself leaving the west coast, but I also never thought I would live in LA.

What’s your career goal?

Obtain a position in public service where I can be successful, have great colleagues and make a significant contribution. The specific titles don’t matter.

Favorite California band?

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Give us your favorite spots for:

 a.   Breakfast

Flore in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles

b.    Lunch

I am not sure it has a name, but there is a food counter in a small market in West Long Beach near the LA River. It has the best burritos I have ever had. However, I wouldn’t stay in the neighborhood after dark.

c.    Dinner

Kafe Neo on 4th street in Long Beach

d.    Happy Hour

Simmzy’s on Second Street in Long Beach. It has a microbrew selection to rival the Northwest.

What book are you reading?

The Age of Roosevelt by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. This historical trilogy was a graduation gift that I have been making slow progress on. So far, I’ve gotten to the election of 1932. It has been interesting to note all of the parallels between the Great Depression and today. It is a reminder that History really does repeat itself.

Advice for those of us who might one day considering moving to California.

Pack your sun screen. You will be surprised how quickly you’ll miss the rain.

Questions or comments for Will? Want to know his prediction for Oregon vs. USC? He can be reached at norriswill8@gmail.com.

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Congratulations Will Norris!

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