NorCal vs. SoCal with Creighton Avila, El Dorado County, CA

Posted on December 2, 2014

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With ELGL’s growing presence in California, we’ve enlisted Cheryl Hughes, City of Palmdale to keep us current on Southern California and Creighton Avila, El Dorado County to do the same for Northern California. 

Creighton on Creighton

I was born and raised in Northern California and I started my local government career there. I spent two summers as a clerk and mailman for the City of Vacaville.

download (2)I completed my undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California. Upon graduation, I worked on the reelection campaign for Governor Gray Davis, and following the campaign I was a lead advance staffer in the Governor’s Office.

After a few years for the Governor, I did what like any good Californian does … I moved to the South. I spent two years completing my MPA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I stayed in North Carolina after graduation to take an ICMA Fellowship working for Catawba County. After my fellowship, I worked for Guilford County and the City of Greensboro.

In the past year, I accepted a position in the Chief Administrative Office in El Dorado County which lead me to moving back to California. If you are in the area, let’s connect via LinkedIn or Twitter.

NorCal vs. SoCal


Northern California (also known as NorCal) does not have a formal geographic designation. The designation mentioned by Cheryl in her article is most commonly used. Under that designation, Northern California is comprised of 48 of the 58 counties in the state. Those 48 counties have 238 cities and towns. The largest cities in the region are San Jose, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Oakland, Bakersfield, Stockton, and Modesto. Most of these cities are located in the Bay Area, Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys. Chico, Eureka, Redding, Salinas, Santa Rosa, and Visalia are a few other important cities to know in Northern California.


4ffd15b2cccdf.preview-620I have lived inside and outside the United States. When I tell people that I’m from Northern California, they quickly ask about the technology industry and the area’s perceived reputation as “tree huggers.” Both of these stereotypes are partially true. I would add that Northern California seems to cultivate innovation in all industries including technology. The region cultivates an environment that allows people to think openly and try out new ideas.

Northern Californians love the outdoors whether it’s the beautiful beaches and forests. The region is home to some of the most fertile land in the world. The farmers and ranchers in this region have one of the most intimate relationships with the land they steward. These individuals’ relationship with the land produces food for much of the United States.


download (1)I would echo Cheryl’s thoughts on finding a local government job in California. I would emphasize that you must get out there and meet other individuals that work in local government. This seems obvious but it takes effort to put yourself in unfamiliar situations.

I speak from experience as I recently moved from North Carolina to Northern California. In the brief time that I’ve been “home,” I have been encouraged by the number of local government professionals who are willing to help me become re-acclimated with the area.

If you are looking for a job in Northern California, I suggest looking at national websites ELGL, ICMA, and  In addition, I would check out  the Municipal Management Association of Northern California (MMANC), California State Association of Counties, or Western City, which is a website of the League of California Cities. All these organizations provide job advertisements.

Who’s Who

I want to highlight a few local government leaders in Northern California. I’ve worked most of my career in North Carolina so my suggestions are limited to my time on ICMA committees and from attending conferences, including the Center for Priority Based Budgeting Conference (CPBB). (On the side note, the CPBB conference was where I first become familiar with ELGL. Who could forget this classic – Rocky Mountain Ramblings: CPBB, Bob Clark, and Jorgen.)

Here are my suggestions along with ones that I compiled by reaching out to other Northern California local government officials. Pat Martel(2)

  • Pat Martel – Daly City
  • Veronica Ferguson – Sonoma County
  • Ed Shikada – San Jose
  • James Keene – Palo Alto
  • Troy Brown – Tracy
  • Phillip Smith Hanes – Humboldt County


Northern California has a ton of places to play. Landscapes range from ocean beaches, fertile valleys, coniferous mountain forests, lava beds and high desert plateaus. In fact, I have heard of people who have surfed and skied in the same day! However, if active adventures is not what you are looking for, there is plenty of wine tasting in the many different wine regions in the area.

Northern California is blessed with stunning national parks (e.g. Yosemite, Lassen, Redwood, Sequoia, etc.). Oh, when it comes to the weather you can find whatever you might prefer from extremely rainy and damp areas and extremely hot and arid areas.  What can we say … we have it all!

Stay tuned for a rundown of the five hot topics facing local governments in Northern California.

Editor’s Note: Extra points if you can find Creighton in this picture from the Pedalounge at #ELGL14.


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