Washington/California: Julie Underwood, Shoreline City Manager

Posted on August 11, 2013

Fifty Nifty Takeaways

What do we hope to learn from this series? We hope you will gain a better understanding of the unique characteristics of local government in each state, we hope you will learn that there are others like you who are motivated to make a difference through the public sector, and we hope you will learn that it is best to learn from other’s mistakes than yours.

Our Take on Washington State

One of ELGL’s goals this year is to build connections with government professionals in Washington state. One way we’ll do this is by making multiple stops in the Evergreen State on the Fifty Nifty tour.  In our previous visit to Washington state, we heard from Washington: Doug Schulze, Bainbridge Island City Manager and WCMA President. Today we hear from Julie Underwood, Shoreline city manager, and we will return later in the tour to hear from the likes of Charlie Bush, City of Issaquah and Jon Amundson, City of Richland.

When we think about Washington state, we immediately think of grunge rock, casinos, Microsoft, Mt. St. Helen’s and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. When we actually take an educated look at Washington state, we find a number of surprising facts.

  • Approximately 60 percent of Washington’s residents live in the Seattle metropolitan area. Spokane and Tacoma are the next two largest cities.
  • Washington is a leading lumber producer.
  • Sir Mix-a-Lot and Presidents of the United States are from Washington state.
  • Although the proper vernacular should be “The State of Washington,” it is often reversed and referred to as “Washington State” to distinguish it from Washington, D.C., also named for George Washington.
  • Washington has over 1,000 dams, including the Grand Coulee Dam
  • Residents are still angry the Sonics left.
  • Washington ranks second in the United States in the production of wine, behind only California.



Current Position: City Manager of Shoreline, WA until October 3, 2013

Employment History: 

Assistant City Manager, City of Shoreline

Assistant To the City Manager, City of Rockville , Maryland

Management Assistant, City of Rockville , Maryland


Bachelor of Arts Degree , Government and Politics, George Mason University

Master’s Degree , Public Administration and Policy, Virginia Tech

Published Works: 

Shoreline, Washington’s Story, Property Tax Increase Approved

Connect: LinkedIn

Background Check on Julie

Julie was appointed Shoreline City Manager in February 2011. Previously, she served as the Assistant City Manager for Shoreline beginning in 2002.Throughout her tenure at Shoreline, she has been involved in all aspects of the City’s daily operations. Before coming to Shoreline, she worked for the City of Rockville, Marylandas the Assistant to the City Manager and as a management assistant.

downloadJulie has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Policy from Virginia Tech and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government and Politics from George Mason University. Shehas also received the Credentialed Manager designation from the International City/County Management Association. To receive the credential, an individual must have significant experience as a senior management executive in local government and demonstrate a commitment to high standards of integrity and to lifelong learning and professional development.

Background Check on Shoreline, WA

image004Shoreline is a city in King County, bordering the northern Seattle city limits. As of the 2010 census, the population was 53,007, making it the 19th largest city in the state of Washington. Based on per capita income, one of the more reliable measures of affluence, Shoreline ranks 91st of 522 areas in the state of Washington to be ranked.

In 1944, the name “Shoreline” was used for the first time to describe the school district. Coined by a student at the Lake City Elementary School, it defined a community which went from city line to county line and from the shore of Puget Sound to the shore of Lake Washington.

Finally in 1995 Shoreline officially became a city being incorporated by King County. Today with over 50,000 residents, Shoreline is Washington’s 15th largest city.

Shoreline contracts with the King County Sheriff’s Office for police services. Deputies assigned to Shoreline wear city uniforms and drive patrol cars marked with the city logo. As of 2012, there are 52 full-time employees assigned to the Shoreline Police Department.

Connect with Shoreline: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the World Wide Web

Lightning Round

Best piece of advice from your parents. You can learn from the mistakes of others.

In a dream world, which bands would headline your retirement party?

Prince and Garth Brooks

(Complete the sentence) Before I die I want to …..see 5 out of 10 women leading as city managers (instead of 1 out of 10).

Three most influential books in your life.

  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring to Excellence, Learning to Let Employees Lead by James Belasco and Ralph Stayer
  • Good to Great by Jim Collins

If you could FaceTime with five people (dead or alive and not including family members), who would be on the list?

b franken mary

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Mary Shelly (Author of Frankenstein)
  • Sheryl Sandberg (Author of Lean In)

Describe the inside of your car:

It’s a mini van for shuttling kids so it’s messy with crumbs, empty food wrappers, etc.

What’s the meaning of life?

For me, it’s following my purpose, which is service to others.

Q & A with Julie

Breaking news: Shoreline City Manager Steps Down. This announcement is what lead the Fifty Nifty to take a detour back to Washington state to hear from Julie Underwood. Julie has a wealth of knowledge to share and is one of the few city managers who gets to leave on their own terms. Julie is leaving Shoreline due to her husband accepting a dream job at Google in Mountain View, California.

Give us three bullet points that best describe local government in Washington.

WA tax referendum

  • Decisions are not always final.  It’s not uncommon to see a ballot measure repeated multiple times.
  • Strong value for public process.  There is a genuine interest in having our community weigh in on many aspects of government.
  • Expect and plan for opposition – A policy decision that may make perfect sense could come with emotional opposition.

We’ll assume you didn’t grow up dreaming about a career in local government. What was your dream job as a 12-year old? What was your first local government job? How did you end up in local government?

  • Teacher
  • Library Volunteer (high school); Intern for Loudon County, VA Office of Solid Waste (graduate school)
  • Internship for Rockville, MD City’s Manager’s Office (changed my life forever – I was hooked on local government!)

Give us your top three career accomplishments.

IMG_9619 Shoreline City Hall

  • Improving Aurora Avenue – a key commercial corridor – by making it safer for pedestrians and motorists and improving the frontage for businesses

We often learn from our mistakes. Name one or two career mistakes that you have made that you think we could learn from.

If you receive a citizen complaint about a staff person, talk directly to the staff person who it pertains to, do not assume the citizen is right (two sides to every story)

Our experience has been many of our friends, family, and neighbors are not well versed in what it is we do in local government, many think we are a “planner” or “mayor”. Has this been your experience? How can local governments better communicate their role in the everyday lives of the community?


Yes, people often think you’re elected or that you’re a planner.  Maybe we need a TV show like Parks and Rec!  But seriously, I often use the analogy of a CEO or a School Superintendent.  I think this will improve if we’re willing to use modern communication tools like social media to tell our stories.

Would you encourage your family and friends to consider a career in local government?

Yes, absolutely!  What a meaningful way to make a positive difference!

Hypothetically, if we find ourselves interviewing for a job in front of you, talk about three steps we can take to make a good impress.

  • Do the research – know what issues are facing the community, understand the political environment, study the Council’s goals, review the budget and CIP, etc.
  • Articulate why you want the job
  • Look people in the eye – it sends the message that you can be trusted

Mentoring is such an important part of local government. Name three of your mentors.

(Complete the sentence) In 2018, local government will be …………the place that college graduates would like to work because of the diversity of problems, the ability to involve the community, the emphasis on life-work balance, and the positive impact they can have on their communities.

What question(s) should we have asked you?

What event in the past, present or future would you like to witness in person?

Answer: Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech

Supplemental Reading

Fifty Nifty Initiative

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