DOWNTOWN You’ve heard of a Jack of all trades, but how about a Jennifer?
Having spent the past 24 years in public service, working in the areas of recycling, public transit and animal control, Jennifer Phillips prides herself on being a polymath and she’ll need all the experience she’s gained when she becomes the new assistant city manager on Monday, putting her in charge of external service departments such as the Big Blue Bus, Community and Cultural Services, the library, planning and public works.
Phillips, 43, was hired by City Manager Lamont Ewell last week after an extensive search to replace Gordon Anderson, who retired in December after eight years with City Hall so that he could serve as the interim executive director for the Westside Cities Council of Governments.
Phillips will receive an annual salary of $180,396.
“I am very excited about the appointment of Jennifer and confident that her outstanding professional experience and education will be an invaluable asset to this organization,” Ewell said.
Phillips was born in Wisconsin and moved with her family to Southern California when she was 4. She grew up in Rancho Palos Verdes and attended Rolling Hills High School. From there she attended Cal State University, Long Beach where she earned a bachelor’s of science and master’s in public administration.
“I absolutely love public service,” Phillips said Wednesday, her last day on the job as an executive manager with Orange County in charge of animal care, a position which required her to work with 22 cities within the county.
“For me, being a public administrator is the perfect job,” Phillips added. “I love being a part of the community, I love providing services. For me, to work with the residents and make a difference in the community I serve is tremendous.”
Phillips worked for both the public and private sectors directly out of college, but found civil service to be more rewarding. She started out in various positions, one of which included working for Los Angeles County as a recycling specialist just after a state law went into effect requiring cities to reduce the amount of garbage heading to landfills. There she helped 88 cities in the county develop recycling programs, including Christmas tree recycling and composting.
From there she worked for the Orange County Transportation Authority helping to develop long-range financial plans. She went on to serve as the assistant to the city manager for the city of Fullerton, helping with a variety of projects including street beautification, working with businesses and community members.
“It was just a great city and a great opportunity,” she said.
Phillips is looking forward to the challenges she will face as the assistant city manager here, and will use her background in finance to bring about better customer service.
“I want to work with staff to identify areas where we can continue to move forward and be more efficient, look at things with a fresh eye and maybe help them better deliver services to residents and help them make some tough choices,” she said. “That is what leadership is all about.”
Phillips and her husband, who works for Citigroup, hope to move to Santa Monica in the coming months with their three dogs, two great Swiss mountain dogs and an albino great dane whom Phillips fostered at a shelter. In their spare time, the Phillips enjoy hiking and traveling, particularly to Germany, where she has some ancestral roots.
“It is very important for us to be a part of the community, to be active community members,” Phillips said. “Part of this decision was to find a community that I would enjoy working in and living in. … I am very excited about the goals and priorities that the city has. I strongly believe in environmental policies.”
Phillips is also pleased with the level of customer service she has seen provided by city staff and will continue to make that her “number one priority.” She is a fan of City Hall’s committment to education and recreation, all while maintainig financial responsibility.
“I’m really looking forward to getting started, Monday,” Phillips said.