Life as a City Manager’s Child with David Rowlands, City of Fillmore (CA)

Posted on June 18, 2014

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This is the latest post in our series “Growing up in City Hall” where we take a look at what it’s like to have a parent that doubles as a city manager. This week we hear from David Rowlands of Fillmore, California.

David Rowlands


City Manager at Fillmore, California

Experience: City Manager – Clayton, OH; Deputy City Manager – Novato, CA; Assistant City Manager – West Carrollton, OH

Education: Bachelor’s of Arts, Political Science & Government – California Lutheran University; Master’s of Public Administration – California State University Stanislaus

Connect: LinkedIn

Background Check

David Rowlands is currently city manager of Fillmore, California. David graduated from California Lutheran with a political science degree and California State University with a master’s degree in public administration.

David started his career as an administrative assistant in Mason. He left that job in 1995 to be West Carrollton’s city manager before becoming the deputy city manager in Novato, Calif. in 1998. He then became the first city manager ever in Clayton, Ohio.

RowlandsHe is the son of David D. Rowlands, city manager of Chula Vista, California. David’s grandfather, also David D. Rowlands, was a longtime, respected manager and president of ICMA in 1966–1967.

Dave-RowlandsDavid D. Rowlands, Tacoma’s city manager for 13 years, helped lead the city to national prominence amid an “Urban Renewal” movement that aimed to revitalize decaying inner cities across America. He landed millions in federal grant dollars to launch a municipal bus system, develop sewage treatment plants and built two downtown parking garages in the 1960s. He also tore down dozens of buildings, saw Weyerhaeuser leave Tacoma and eventually supported a new mall that gutted the downtown retail core. “It was a heady time for Tacoma, and Dave was right at the center of it,” said former Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma

He also served as City Manager of Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Huntington Beach. He also taught at California State University, Long Beach.

Q & A with David


What was it like growing up with a parent who was a city manager?  Was there anything you liked, anything you could have done without?

For me it was great.  Both my grandfather and father were city and county managers. We were able to go to events and meet people we otherwise would not have met.

downloadWhen I visited with my grandfather he always showed me the projects that he helped build.  I also remember going to my dad’s office and eating all the candy from the executive assistant’s candy bowls.

Growing up everyone knew who I was because of my dad which was both a positive and negative. For example, I played sports and when I made an all-star team there was always someone who would always say that I  made the team because of my dad.

Did you move around a lot growing up? If so, what was that like?

We moved every 7 years.  The only move I regretted was when we moved after my sophomore year.  My dad worked approximately 1.5 hours away for the school year and that was hard.

How did having a parent who is a city manager influence your career choice?  Was there pressure to follow in their footsteps? When did you become interested in pursuing this career path? 

download (1)I never had any pressure to pursue this career.  As I mentioned earlier, my grandfather was a manager as well, and at family vacations, I would sit and listen to my grandfather and dad talk for hours about various situations that they were dealing with at work. Occasionally, they would ask me how I would handle the situation.

As far back as I can member, I only wanted to be a city manager or a college basketball coach.

Did you learn any lessons from their career or experience? If so, what are they?

download (2)I learned many things:

  • Respect everyone and always say hello to your employees.
  • Build relationships with your city council.
  • Do what is right, not what is popular.
  • Forget everything you learned in grad school.
  • Never be afraid to say I do not know, but I will get you the answer.

downloadHas your career path been different than your parent’s? How so?

My path has been more like my grandfather. I have worked in Ohio and California.  My grandfather worked in several states and my dad only worked in California.

I have stayed in smaller communities and they both worked in larger jurisdictions.

Do you have a professional relationship with your parent? Do you exchange work related advice?

I was lucky. My grandfather and my dad were the best mentors that I could ask for. Anytime I had a question, wanted to vent, or seek counsel, they were always there to provide the advice that I needed.

Getting to share your local government career with two generations of highly respected city managers is a true privilege.

Both encouraged me to get involved with ICMA and to make a difference in that organization. My grandfather was ICMA President in the 1960s.

What does your parent think of you following in their footsteps? 

download (3)My parents were very proud, but they would have been proud of any career choice I made.

The advantage of having family in local government is I knew the good, the bad, and the ugly of the profession.

How do you describe your parent’s job to friends?

I would tell them my dad is in charge of the city which includes the police, fire and can shut off your water.

What advice can you give to kids whose parent is a city manager?

I would advise others to embrace it and try not to take things personally. Unfortunately, there is always a chance that things will be said about your parent that can be ugly and untrue.

Would you encourage your children to pursue a career in local government?


If my children asked I would tell them to really think about the decision. The local government profession has changed and not all for the better. The entitlement generation is now entering the workforce and getting on city council’s. It will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out and whether it changes the way local government works in the future.

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