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Community Engagement Manager

Original post made by Just Wondering II on Jul 3, 2008

It seems like the best kept secret in town is the newly hired Community Engatement Manager. Has anyone seen her?

For a position that should be highly visible, she instead seems to be conspicuous by her absence. What should be the level of involvement for someone earning a $100,000 plus salary?

Does she go to City Council meetings, Commission meetings, Homeowner Association meetings, Service Club meetings, Chamber of Commerce meetings, Church functions etc in order to mingle and get the pulse of the town?

Maybe she'll surface eventually, but thus far the "civic engagement" seems to be off.

Comments (41)

Posted by hopeful, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 4, 2008 at 8:25 am

She sure has her work cut out for her. The visioning process looks good on paper but hasn't built consensus on much if anything. Will yet another consultant design our town and yet another council micromanage the results? I sure hope not.

Posted by Provocateur, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Jul 5, 2008 at 9:59 am

So, today's question is, how can I find a good job that pays well and I don't have to work too hard?

1. Get a job with the city that has a long title. Director of Studies Coordination and Integration, is one that comes to mind. That ought be worth six figures and a life-time pension.

2. Become a consultant that does studies for the city. (The city loves studies.) Once you have a long, complicated vanilla format with lots of graphs and charts, you can use it over and over just by changing a few key nouns and verbs.

3. Become a developer that scarfs up low cost real estate in the city and gets a lot of investors since it will be hugely profitable. Push for zoning variances and demand reduced parking and increased building height. Your chances are excellent.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 5, 2008 at 11:12 am

How to serve my community...

1. Cry and whine anonymously like the coward I am
2. Point fingers at everyone but never bother to question why I hide in the shadows.
3. Act like an expert on anonymous forums but don't dare ask me for real information or facts, because I no very little.

We have real problems to deal with in this city.

Cowards need not apply.

Posted by Mike, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jul 5, 2008 at 3:00 pm

What's the justification for this position? This sure sounds non-essential.

Posted by oh sure!, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 5, 2008 at 7:31 pm

...but the city has all that money to spend from the UT tax, and more if they decide they don't have enough. No cops to be found on Santa Cruz Avenue to slow the traffic, the infrastucture continues to deteriorate, and I'll bet we're the only town on the peninula that has a Community Engangement Manager, and that's important because??? Hmmm, and engagement manager...maybe she's a matchmaker! Then again, maybe we've been duped again!

Posted by well maybe, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jul 6, 2008 at 10:24 am

With all the money wasted in the past on poor communications with the community, this position might well be worth every penny. Think about Santa Cruz street furniture, childcare center, failed residential guidelines, failed downtown visions, bike tunnel, and the like. The waste was on consultants and staff at a minimum. Too bad it's needed, but I don't feel duped at all. At least not yet.

Posted by Curious, a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jul 6, 2008 at 11:36 am

But has anyone seen her -- or heard from her or read anything she's responsible for -- in her role as someone who is "engaging" the community? At this point, I have no opinion on whether the position was a good one to create. I just am confused about how someone whose job was to be such a public one (at least that's how I understood it) could have remained so invisible to the community after -- what? -- two, three months? Have I just not been paying close enough attention?

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 6, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Sure seems like a sweet job.

It isn't her fault though. There seems to be a culture of paying tons for little performance. Our city manager pockets $250k in benefits and salary. It doesn't take a genius to sense that something is amiss here in Menlo Park.

What can we do about this?? I'm all ears!

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 7, 2008 at 3:48 pm

Correction...again...$208K salary + benefits. Palo Alto's city manager makes $240K base.

Posted by Glass is half empty..., a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 8, 2008 at 1:08 am

What does a CEO of a company with several hundred people make for a living? The City Manager oversees EVERYTHING. What is that worth to you? I wouldn't want to oversee Finance, Police, Fire, Parks, Recreation, Public Works, City Clerk, etc. for anything less. You act like it is an easy job. If it paid less- would you get the person you want? No, you would complain about that too.

Don't read this poor new woman in the Civic Engatement, Engangement or Engagement Position the riot act just yet. Maybe there will be a positive impact? I understand you have not seen certain things out of the current management that you may want, but I hope some understand the amount of work many city employees put into so many other things on a day to day basis. Not sure what Menlo Park has in the ways of Economic Redevelopment Funding, but if this is like what Redwood City has, than maybe she will help revitalize the downtown so taxes can increase and city staff can concentrate on helping create more for you rather than dealing with budget cuts and creative financing to make what they currently have work.

Just tired of seeing new people thrown under the bus. She applied for a job and got it. Don't kill the messenger. Honestly, I know nothing about this new position...but if she just started, wouldn't it be smart to do some research before trying to wrangle a bunch of angry residents? Get out there and apply for these jobs and help be a part of the change if you know so much.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 10, 2008 at 11:04 am

Our city manager takes home $254k roughly. Read the facts in this very paper.

Posted by so, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 10, 2008 at 11:26 am

What's your point? Is this too much to hire an experienced city manager? Do you think he should be fired?

Posted by Elizabeth Lasensky, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 10, 2008 at 2:33 pm

I have indeed met and met with our new Community Engagement Manager, as have quite a few other members of our community. She's there to provide the very same avenues for public input that some of you anonymous gripers have complained were missing in our public process.

Some of you complain incessantly that there isn't enough public input for all sorts of items on our city's agenda. Yet when an effort is made to get and organize public input, you gripe about that too.

You get what you pay for. If you want quality city employees helping with your questions and concerns, then you need to be willing to pay for it. Do you work for cheap?

Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 10, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Surprisingly the new Community Engagement Manager failed to show up and engage the community at the city's neighborhood meeting on a bike tunnel 2 weeks ago.

This is fluff position, without measurable performance goals.

Sorry to see Elizabeth condone wasteful spending if she's planning on running for council.

Posted by Amazed at all of you, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 10, 2008 at 6:27 pm

I wish the city manager brought home "254k roughly"! As for other city staff, I don't think any city could compensate an employee enough to put up with the negativity expressed here. While all of you are spouting off your negative comments, city staff are in city hall working. How do I know? Mine isn't home yet.

Are they worth the salary? As was mentioned before, you get what you pay for. Maybe you should meet some of the city staff one-on-one and ask your questions. I'm confident you'll find more positive attitudes than what are expressed here.

Posted by safeway shopper, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2008 at 10:34 pm

I have seen her ordering a cake for one Thursday in May, and you would have guessed that our wonderful city picked up the tab. Don't know what was worth celebrating. I overheard her saying "I don't want the cake to look like a birthday cake". After that she went grocery shopping in the middle of the afternoon. I would have provided photos to this forum if I hadn't been stopped by my companion. The city taxpayers paid for that sweet piece of cake and for her time to run personal errands.

Posted by Glass is half empty town..., a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 11, 2008 at 10:48 pm you checked her cart and made a decision that everything was personal. You saw the credit card or cash she used to pay for a cake and decided it was the city picking it up...maybe it was...maybe the cake was for something work related. What if she was on a lunch break (not everyone makes it out from 12-1pm)? What if she was taking a personal day? Wow... I will think about how would look to the public if I take lunch at a strange hour, or buy items for work that could seem like they are personal. Sheesh. Read your post again... are you kidding me?

Posted by safeway shopper, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2008 at 11:07 pm

Maybe grocery shopping is part of her job..... I am just kidding myself.

Posted by business as usual in MP, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 11, 2008 at 11:45 pm

Amazed, you can pay me $100k/year (plus stellar benefits, not to mention one day off every other week) to listen to the complaints of any residents who can track me down and I wouldn't care what a bunch of anonymous people posted on this forum.

I wouldn't recognize our new CEM if she showed up on my doorstep selling Girl Scout cookies, but having dealt with many city employees on different issues, I'd say they are fortunate to have their piece-of-cake jobs as they wouldn't last a week in a for-profit enterprise. With a few exceptions, and our city manager is not one of them, city staffers are underskilled and overcompensated.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 12, 2008 at 1:02 am

business as usual

[deleted, terms of use] Talk big and back it up with your name so we can research you and your track record [deleted, terms of use. focus on the topic, not on insulting other posters.]

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 12, 2008 at 9:27 am

There are one or two here who say, "you get what you pay for."

I don't agree. I think performance in government moves independent to pay. There is no correlation. There is so much political muck involved that there is no longer a connection between performance and pay. It is a formula of what was the person making before you, what do our neighbors pay and what do our taxes bring in.

Love it or hate it, paying more does not mean necessarily getting more.

I hate it. There is nothing I can do about this one but I wonder if it is worth exploring looking into Sacramento. They are talking about posting all salaries publically.

I think adopting their inititiative is a step in the right direction of reigning in high salaries.

It is the government... no one should be getting rich off of it

Posted by Glass half empty town, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 12, 2008 at 10:25 am

Please a six figure government job does not make you rich around here.

Also- all cities have to divulge their salary schedule. It is on most of their websites. Check under HR if you want descriptions and such.

I work for a neighboring city and have put in about 70+ hours this week (with no overtime). I care about my job and have pride in what I do. Many of my colleagues have been busting their tails at this time. It was awesome to be working until midnight last night to then go on this site and read that I am thought of as under-skilled and overpaid and could never make in the private sector. Yes, I make a decent living- still struggle living here, have a degree from an esteemed university and have worked in the private sector. I could definitely hold my own in the PS and have. I know plenty in the private sector that just "collect a pay check" as well.

I hope that someday you meet a city employee around here that can change your perception. To "business as usual in MP" I am sorry that you seem to have not. I wonder how many you have really known. I am not sure in what capacity you refer, but for the most part, from the landscaper to the city manager, I know far too many people with a lot of passion and pride in their jobs that do a great service and really care about what they do. I am sorry if council decisions have swayed your thinking (not mentioned on this thread but dominate most), since that seems to be the majority of the gripes I read on these blogs. Don't take your frustration with one or two issues that may effect your family at this one moment of time in your life out on blanket statements about all people in a workforce.

I know many people who see one side of an issue because it is what is effecting them right now. In another year or so it is something else and many times changes to the opposing point of view- especially prevalent in school debates. I know the "government worker" stereotype of days of old, and having worked in both public and private entities can assure you that the work force is far more impressive than you give credit or discredit.

Posted by Elizabeth Lasensky, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 12, 2008 at 3:17 pm

If it is so important to you that you meet the new Community Engagement staff member, then call up and make an appointment!!! I suppose you are so important that she should somehow magically know to call you.

If you have to hide behind an anonymous name, then you can't expect her to come find you. And you must not be that important.

Posted by biz as usual, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 12, 2008 at 5:16 pm

[portion deleted - terms of use.]

Glass half, good point about incompetent people working in the private sector. They may have jobs for a while, but they don't keep those jobs indefinitely, and they certainly don't get to retire with a fat pension. So it's not quite the same as in the public sector.

I am a city commissioner (meaning: I work for the city for free in addition to my day job) and have interacted with staff in probably every department. Since I don't like to talk in generalities, it might be helpful to note one department with whom many of us have had interaction: the building/planning staff.

You might expect that city employees would focus on the best interests of their city. Not so the people in this department. They have made it clear that their greatest obligation is to the people who pay the largest fees, i.e., the big developers who often do not live or work in this city but who hope to profit through rezoning or via a project that would benefit the developer but would not serve the community in the short or long term. Similarly, the planners often treat the people who pay the lowest fees--homeowners of modest means who are trying to fix up their homes--rather badly. I have even heard some pretty sad stories of naive homeowners (unlike the developers, they aren't professionals who know how to navigate the system) who have received hostile treatment at the hands of the planning department.

Many of these staffers have degrees in planning, and I am wondering if they napped through most of their classes and if they bothered to take a course in ethics. They certainly don't seem to take much pride in doing their job professionally.

And that's just one example.

If the CEM is at all interested in helping the people of Menlo Park, perhaps she will show her face at the council meeting where the visioning process for El Camino is discussed. Despite pro forma efforts to involve the public, the recommendations that the council has been asked to approve do not incoporate the input provided by the community. I wonder if she is even aware of these issues. If she had this role in a for-profit company, she would be proactive, but since she works for Menlo Park, I guess we can't expect her to inform herself about what's going on. It's up to us to make appointments with her to explain city politics?

Posted by Glass half empty town, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 12, 2008 at 8:26 pm

As a City employee I can find common ground with you re: people hanging on to jobs too long. There are always those people that I look at and get frustrated people tend to "work around" since they won't do anything about it. You can get rid of slackers...just need to start the paper trail early. Stinks! For the most part (at least where i work) they are few and far between.

I commend anyone who puts time in to their local commission. You can make a difference. Just may take a long time (if ever) in some instances!

Posted by Information, please, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 14, 2008 at 11:23 am

What this thread is lacking is real information about this new staff person -- e.g. what is she SUPPOSED to be doing? And what HAS she been doing since coming to town two months ago? Here's the Almanac's story, which sort of tells what she's been hired to do, but gives no real details or job description.
Web Link

It seems that the posters here are mostly speculating on whether she's actually been doing anything. Have any of you been involved recently in civic committees and/or neighborhood efforts -- the El Camino project? the Seminary Oaks water reservoir plan? -- and if so, is the community engagement person working with you? And Almanac, can you be more specific about what this person is supposed to be doing? What's her job description? Let's stop the speculation and get some answers.

Posted by Cherise Brandell, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 15, 2008 at 8:57 am

This is Cherise Brandell, Menlo Park's Community Engagement Manager. How great that so many people are interested in my work!

For those of you who want the facts before you make a judgment, here are my job accountabilities:
• Develop and implement a community engagement plan supporting Council and staff in understanding the values, needs and priorities of Menlo Park residents. This will be measured in a biannual survey distributed in the fall; in order to be considered successful, 85% must agree that Menlo Park provides opportunities for input. 85% must also agree that communications are timely and relevant.
• Improve the City's ability to "manage constituent issues as proactively as possible." This will also be measured with the survey.

In order to achieve these results, here's how I've spent my time since my first day on May 12:


Posted by Cherise Brandell, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 15, 2008 at 8:58 am

• Meeting with and interviewing over 40 Menlo Park residents to make sure what I do meets the expectations and needs of Menlo Park residents (if I didn't speak with you and you'd like to participate, just send me an e-mail:
• Based on the interviews, I have developed a community engagement plan (if you are interested in a copy send me an email and in a couple of weeks it will be available)
• Developed a budget newsletter which should be in mailboxes next week
• Developing a community wide survey
• Learning about City systems
• News releases, post cards and announcements sent out by city departments and more
• Attending numerous Council meetings, Chamber of Commerce block party meetings, and Commission meetings but not, necessarily, community process meetings where staff already had a consultant and a previous process in place.

If you'd like more details about my work, I'd be happy to meet with you. I'm happy, also, to attend any meeting of any group which invites me.

Posted by Cherise Brandell, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 15, 2008 at 9:01 am

I encourage anyone with other questions or concerns to contact me directly as I don't normally review anonymous forums like this – I take my work very personally and I find that the negative comments from people who don't know me or my work (like the person who mistakenly believes they saw me buying cake ...) don't contribute to the proactively engaged, civil community my work is designed to help build. So – please contact me directly if you have a concern at the email above or via phone at 650-330-6618.

Posted by business as usual, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 15, 2008 at 10:45 am

So more surveys, more studies, more money wasted on postage on pieces that will go straight into recycling, and no involvement in the most important community project at the moment -- the El Camino visioning process -- because staff already had a consultant in place.

Sounds about right.

Posted by Good for you, a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Jul 15, 2008 at 5:26 pm

Good for you Charise. Congratulations on coming forward and telling everyone who you are. You will find the naysayers in this wealthy community are many, but so are the supporters. Do your job, do your best, and don't be distracted by the torrent of criticism. You left your full name, email address and phone number to be contacted...which is both commendable and more than anyone else will do. It is easier to bash anoynomously. Good luck.

Posted by new guy, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 15, 2008 at 6:12 pm

wow, but to be honest what I really want to know is how you fill your day. I bet I could take care of your "responsibilities" in about a hour or two a week of "actual" work, and with a probably a few hours of week of "attending" meetings.

What is it that my tax money is buying me here? What is the "service" you are offering me.

Posted by Katie Ferrick, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jul 15, 2008 at 6:51 pm

This is exactly what this community needs--someone who will engage all the divergent opinions in Menlo Park like the many who have posted here. If it weren't for the folks who commented above being critical about everything that goes on in town, there would not not be a need for a Community Engagement Manager. Please don't take this as a disparaging comment--the critics really do make projects and process better and have likely stopped a lot of bad decisions, so don't stop! Just please know that a highly skilled person like Cherise might help you find a constructive outlet for your objections so you won't simply be frustrated.

I have met Cherise at several community events including the downtown block party, city council meetings, and at city hall.
If we are to make progress as a community, we need someone who is willing and qualified to dive in to Menlo Park head first. She seems perfectly suited to this with her back ground, education, and personality. Give her a chance to succeed and perhaps you will have less to complain about next year.

I encourage you to be responsible for your objections and take her up on her offer to meet with her. I believe you will leave impressed.

Posted by Alexander J., a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jul 15, 2008 at 9:53 pm

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and as taxpayers we all need to be informed of how our money is being spent. As we all know, local, state and federal governments have a history of spending tax payer money friviously, and when the money runs out - they just ask for more.

If she doesn't review "anonymous" forums like this, then why is she reading and posting on this forum. Why get so defensive? Does she have something to hide.

Do a search on her and you'll find there is a forum in her old city paper about the negative comments she made about her former employer very recently in a published article. Shame, shame - never bad mouth someone else AND never burn your bridges! She doesn't sound very mature for her age.

Posted by new guy, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 15, 2008 at 11:41 pm

sweet. we have someone "qualified". and for just 101 thousand dollars.

I still don't see what my money buys MP.

Also, I do not understand why this position was "created" in the first place.

If we need someone to conduct surveys. I can get those done cheap, far less than 101 THOUSAND DOLLARS salary. So what is total cost to MP. Probably double that a year.

Any chance our "utility" tax will go up to pay for her "sweet job".

What do YOU DO ALL DAY....

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 16, 2008 at 12:38 pm

New Guy is more of the same here.

Bold and brutal comments without any basis or factual back up and hiding behind a pseudonym. Richard Hines will probably edit this one too and let this vile act of worthless chatter continue, but I for one am loathe to credit anyone who hides from the light like a cockroach. You want to make a comment, stand up and use your name. Otherwise, your words are worth less than your credibility.

Posted by Noami de Plume, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 16, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Ha, ha ha! Oh, "truth," how funny of you to castigate others for not using their real names!

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 17, 2008 at 4:19 pm

I thought it was funny...great pseudonym yourself.

Posted by Sue D. Nimme, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 17, 2008 at 5:34 pm

But mine is better.

P.S. Like any good bureaucrat, the new employee spends her days in meetings, and in writing memos following up on those meetings.

Posted by Noami de Plume, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 18, 2008 at 10:25 am

Pointless meetings and memos -- Sounds just like being in the private sector.

Posted by truth, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jul 18, 2008 at 11:17 am

Boo public sector! Boo private sector!

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