LEMOORE — Monday was Lemoore City Manager Andrea Welsh’s first day on the job, the same day construction workers ruptured a water main that left hundreds of the city’s residents without water.
Welsh said her plan for the first few weeks involved meeting with various organizations and agencies, and possibly dealing with the unexplained jar of pasta sauce left on a bookshelf in her new office.
“It’s not what I was expecting on the first day, but it was a really good opportunity to see how our city operates in an emergency situation,” Welsh said.
The ruptured water line was repaired by Monday evening.
The Lemoore City Council voted last month to hire Welsh following a months-long effort to replace former City Manager Jeff Laws, who retired in March.
Welsh grew up in Southern California and earned her undergraduate degree from University of California, Santa Cruz. She earned a master's degree in public administration from Villanova University.
Prior to becoming interested in city management, Welsh said, she originally wanted to work in law enforcement and become a police chief.
“There are a lot of similarities between law enforcement and working in the manager’s office,” Welsh said. “You want to help people. You want to better the community. You want to give back to the community. I still get to enjoy the components of what I think is fascinating about law enforcement, but also be able to take my skills on a much broader level and help communities work on what’s important to them.”
With more than a decade of experience in city government, Welsh previously served as the assistant to the town manager in Gilbert, Ariz., a city with nearly 10 times the population of Lemoore.
Welsh said her other work experience was in cities with 30,000 or fewer residents. Working in Gilbert gave her a chance to see how a larger agency functions with more resources at its disposal. The former “Hay Capital of the World” now boasts one of the highest growth rates in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Among the tactics Welsh said she hopes to bring to Lemoore is the use of multi-year strategies. Such strategies set long-term and short-term goals to help the council achieve its vision for things like public safety, economic development and the city’s growth.
“A lot of these things are not going to happen in a one-year time frame,” Welsh said. “You’re laying the foundation for those things and planting the seeds and working on plans that are not 30- or 90-day happenings.”
For example, the city will need to build a new wastewater treatment plant in the coming years. Such a project will require a long-term plan to buy land, design and engineer the facility and then actually build it.
Welsh said that failing to lay that foundation in advance is “dangerous.”
“That’s the worst position for a city to be in, is to make expensive decisions at the last minute,” Welsh said. “That is not a position I want to put the council or community in.”
Welsh said she generally tackles problems by first identifying stakeholders who will be involved or affected by the problem. The next step is to identify partners who can offer expertise and other help.
“I always try to come back to the elected officials with options,” she said. “You know, ‘Here’s our recommendation, but here are some other options that might work to get you where you want to go.’ ”
Welsh said she likes to organize ideas into lists. As of Wednesday, she had already filled several pages of a legal pad with a to-do list based on her first few days on the job.
Welsh attended her first City Council meeting on Tuesday and already has some ideas about improving the way information is distributed to the council. She was also pleased to hear from the Lemoore Youth Softball Association’s 12U Division, which recently qualified for the California State Games.
Coming from a larger city, Welsh said, she is excited to live in Lemoore. She said she believes the city offers a more tight-knit community than she had in Gilbert.
“I’m really excited to be here, coming to a small community where I have felt welcomed from day one,” Welsh said. “I really appreciate communities like this where you value your neighbor, where it’s important to know who your neighbor is.”