NorCal vs. SoCal with Cheryl Hughes, City of Palmdale

Posted on September 24, 2014

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We embark on a new series highlighting the defining characteristics of Northern California (NorCal) and Southern California (SoCal). Many of you associate California with In N’ Burger, Disneyland, the Kardashians, and California Pizza Kitchen (ok, maybe not the last one.). To get the real story, we’ve enlisted Cheryl Hughes, City of Palmdale to give us a local government tour through Southern California. Creighton Aliva, El Dorado County, will follow up with a similar piece on NorCal. If you’re interested in sharing your Cali perspective with us, contact Emily Leuning,

Defining SoCal


By: Cheryl Hughes

Southern California (SoCal) is not a formal geographic designation, and definitions of what constitutes Southern California vary. The most common definition of SoCal is the 10 counties in the southern portion of California. Los Angeles (at 3.7 million people) and San Diego (at 1.3 million people), both in southern California, are the two largest cities in all of California (and two of the eight largest cities in the United States). In southern California there are also twelve cities with more than 200,000 residents and 34 cities over 100,000 in population. 

Hot Topics

Southern California

Local governments face challenges in several areas. Many of these will likely be no surprise to the reader. This is a sample list and is certainly not all-inclusive of all issues faced in Southern California by local governments. The list is:

Healthcare: Long Beach, California, Cutting Part-Time Worker Hours Over Obamacare

Similar to many other states, long-term funding of employee pensions is a pressing issue. The state is seeking to create a sustainable pension system that benefits the employee, the employer, and the taxpayer. This is complicated by rising employee healthcare insurance premiums. Another factor is the ongoing challenge for governments to understand Affordable Care Act requirements and its impact on employees and employers.

Public Safety: Report: Staffing Shortages Linked To LAPD Backlog Of Fingerprint Evidence

Cities are in need of funding to provide adequate resources that will help lower crime rates. Some cities are developing innovative solutions that increase community engagement and partnerships in high crime neighborhoods. At the same time, cities are battling to keep up with mandated regulations from the state and federal government.

A problem facing the San Diego Police Department is retaining its current officers. In Hemet, the City Council voted to shut down the city’s 106-year-old fire department.

Environment: Five myths about California’s drought

SoCal faces many issues related to the environment. Cities are trying to develop environmental-related programs that allow them to be good environmental stewards. Santa Monica voters are deciding whether to approve a “water bond” that would authorize $7.12 billion in general obligation bonds to be used for state water supply infrastructure projects.  

Economic DevelopmentGov. Brown urged to give cities new economic development tools

While SoCal doesn’t have Silicon Valley, we are famous for tourism and Hollywood. Our cities are seeking more stable revenue streams by diversifying industry clusters. One solution is partnerships – Economic development partnership formed between Inland Empire, L.A.

Human Services: After Being Ignored by Local Government, Southern California Residents Fight for Equal Funding For Health Care for Mental Illness.

SoCal has its share of poverty which results in cities needing to find solutions to address homelessness and to provide low income housing.

Fiscal Cliff: Adelanto Council Places Tax Measure On Ballot To Stave Off Bankruptcy

Not unlike other states, cities in southern California are faced with finding finding innovative solutions to address reduced revenues and still provide high quality programs to the community.

The City of Redlands is one example of a a city debating the right approach for addressing aging infrastructure.  Cities are facing decision in funding road/bridge improvement, park systems, and municipal facilities – city halls, police stations, and fire stations.

Stereotyping SoCal

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One of the most significant perceptions/stereotypes that exist in Southern California is that we play more than work. Granted, we know how to enjoy life and we do play; but we also work very hard. One of my mottos in life that fit here is that we work hard so we can play hard. Another stereotype/perception is that we drive crazy. In some areas this may have some validity, since the traffic in the larger metro cities can be brutal and require a special crazy-like driving ability; however, for the much of Southern California, we are not all crazy drivers and even drive with respect for others on the road and obey the traffic laws.

SoCal Networks

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My recommendations for finding a job in Southern California, especially a local government job, would be to use valuable web sites. Many agencies in Southern California post their job opening on In addition to this web site, MMASC and ICMA are also valuable resources for job hunting as well as Strategic Government Resources. In addition to finding job opportunities, these web sites also provide tips on resumes preparation and interviewing skills. Another recommendation I would provide for finding a job in Southern California is building networks. Connecting with others in the same field can help with finding a job, but can also be valuable resources to ask questions or learn from their experiences.

A few examples of leaders in the region are:

  • David Childs – City Manager, City of Palmdale
  • Carol Jacobs – City Manager, City of Eastvale
  • Ken Striplin – City Manager, City of Santa Clarita

Playin’ in SoCal

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Living in Southern California offers a myriad of year round recreational activities. From enjoying hiking or picnicking in the scenic mountain ranges, to hanging loose on one of the many beautiful Southern California beaches, to going to the Happiest Place on Earth (Disneyland), to Universal Studios, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Magic Mountain, to visiting the many cultural museums and neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and the list goes on. There is never a shortage of activities that suits any lifestyle in Southern California. The diverse culture adds to the benefits of living in Southern California and the added beauty is the weather and the number of sunshiny days we have.

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