What is an Assistant To: Tony Winney, City of Vista, CA

Posted on January 4, 2016

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]What is an Assistant to the City Manager? In between other duties as assigned, council meetings, and a bewildering assortment of public inquiries, ELGL members identify the essential functions of the position.

Background Check

Tony Winney

Assistant to the City Manager – Vista, CA

Tony Winney (LinkedIn & Twitter) currently serves as Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Vista, CA. In his current role he manages a variety of high profile initiatives, relying on his project management, budget, and community outreach experience to be successful. Joining the City of Vista was a natural fit for Winney, having previously served the organization as a Management Analyst. Prior to joining the City of Vista, Winney also gained valuable local government experience working with the City of Carlsbad, CA, Poway, CA and La Mesa, CA.

Winney found his passion for public service while serving as Legislative Assistant at the State Bar of Texas, not long after relocating to California where he obtained an MPA from San Diego State University. Over his fifteen years working in local government he has mastered other duties as assigned, serving as webmaster, becoming an expert in solid waste, fleet management, market analysis, commercial development, acting as liaison to media and leading a Citizen’s Academy.

Lightning Round

My first job was.….

Paperboy @ 12 yo. Trudging through the snow in upstate New York delivering papers was an excellent way to build character! My first real job was as a school janitor assistant @ 16 yo. I had to get a special work permit from the state in order to work at 16. Remember all of those wads of gum you stuck under the desk in middle school? I got to remove them with a spatula all summer. I think sometimes you learn what you do want to do in life by performing a job you absolutely do not want to do for the rest of your life!

The last concert that I attended was….

Alabama Shakes in San Diego. Hands down the best concert I have ever seen! Their lead singer, Brittany Murphy, just drips with soul.

I am currently reading……

Saving Capitalism by Robert Reich. I’m finding this book particularly pertinent within the context of the upcoming Presidential election and how we can solve the wealth and inequity gap.

Favorite restaurant in your community……

El Zarape, which is a hole in the wall with great Mexican food. We’re lucky to live in the University Heights neighborhood of San Diego, which is very walkable with excellent choices of restaurants and bars all within walking distance of our house.

The Job

What is one project you are currently working on?

I’m currently managing a CIP project, which is a significant remodel of one of our existing city parks. We’ll be adding a new outdoor lighted soccer field, playground, dog park, walking trails and ADA improvements. We’re in the design phase right now. I’m excited by the project because it will provide amenities to the community in a park that is currently very underutilized. I’m learning a great deal about the details of how engineering and planning departments process development projects, and the needs of the surrounding community.

How will local government change in the next ten (10) years?

I think the public continues to demand a higher degree of transparency from their local governments everyday. Over the next 10 years, local government will need to continue to adapt to changes in technology, including conducting workshops online and utilizing open data with private companies to create solutions to long standing problems. I think the current trend to pass more responsibilities and authority down to local governments will continue because it will be the only way that Americans will feel they can retain a sense of control over funding and scope of government activities as the scope of the federal and state governments feel increasingly more out of touch with local priorities.

What is one important skill every “Assistant To” should have?

Assistant To’s have to boundary spanners. They have to be comfortable working across the organization, get buy-in from stakeholders on priority projects, and be flexible enough to work in a variety of capacities, sometimes all within the same day.

Name three public organizations (other than your own) you admire:

City of Carlsbad, CA: I worked for the City of Carlsbad earlier in my career, and I admired how they devoted significant resources to discussing innovation and making sure their organizational values were imbedded in everything that they do. They were also a very well funded organization, which also helps when you have resources at your disposal to achieve your goals.

City of Santa Monica, CA: I admire their commitment to trying new things. They recently conducted an extensive quality of life initiative in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies called “The Wellbeing Project.” The Wellbeing Project spent more than a year researching the factors that make a city thrive, and the best ways to measure those factors. The project is still underway, so I’m interested to see how they plan to implement and sustain the effort.

City of Portland, OR: I admire their commitment to public transit, their strict city growth boundaries and residential design guidelines that promote interaction between home frontages and the streetscape.

Networking & Interviewing

What job titles should a recent graduate be considering?

I’ve always been a big fan of the management analyst position. It allows you to gain experience in management skills while also mastering the processes that are integral to achieving organizational support for projects. I’d also recommend accounting technicians and assistant planner positions. If you are able to develop a mastery of budgeting and/or the development process, these are skills that you will use throughout your career and, hopefully, will position you well for your next move.

Three tips for interviewing.

Research the organizational culture. Organizational culture is very important. Call friends or acquaintances to find out what the values of the organization are, and if they are living those values every day or simply giving them lip service. For example, if you really value innovation but the organization has a risk adverse manager and/or council, then you might want to look elsewhere.

Know your stuff. Be prepared for the interview, researching the organization’s200
budget, their Council priorities and be ready to ask informed questions about what types of projects you’ll be working on and what your responsibilities will be. Once you have an interview with your potential supervisor, be ready to dig deep and don’t be afraid to negotiate for more money/benefits.

Know who you are. Spend some time figuring out what your unique “selling points” are and why they are valuable to the organization you are interviewing with. If you are well versed in what you want from your next position, you will be able to articulate who you are and why they should hire you.

Who are three role models/mentors?

My current City Manager, Patrick Johnson, from the City of Vista, CA. He has a wonderful sense of humor and is very good at coaching his employees by providing subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) hints at what he wants and what he expects, without being overbearing. He has always supported me as an individual, and gives me great latitude in the projects I choose to work on.

Lydia Romero, City Manager of Lemon Grove, CA. Lydia also has a great sense of humor and is very direct with everyone in terms of her expectations. I admire her because it’s not always easy to ascend the ranks of our profession as a woman but she’s done it and she’s done it on her own terms.

My grandmother. She was an incredibly strong woman who took no gruff. She was also a working mother, and later on, a working grandmother. Her strength and work ethic have continued to guide me throughout my career.

Just for Fun

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Briefly describe your ideal Saturday morning.

My ideal Saturday would be sleeping in late, hiking up one our local mountains with my son, and then meeting the rest of my family for breakfast at a fantastic local San Diego restaurant.

If you had one free hour each day, how would you use it? 

I would spend more time with my two kids, Ethan and Evie (4 and 14 months.) They bring so much happiness to my life, they deserve as much free time as I can give them.

If you could create a local government super hero, who would they be?

“NIMBY Crusher” who would use mind control to remind NIMBYs how they supported development when they purchased their own homes years ago.

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