It was there several decades ago when the new Concord City Manager, then a Peace Corps volunteer, learned the importance of community.
“In any endeavor, you need to get everyone involved to have true success,” she says. “It was vital when working with small communities when I was in the Peace Corp, and essential now when working in city administration.”
Barone, who was hired on as Concord’s assistant city manager four years ago – and has served as interim city manager since January 2012 – was the unanimous choice of the Concord City Council to fill the top position on a permanent basis. She will be officially appointed at the council’s April 9 meeting.
City officials are thrilled with their decision. “Valerie is a consummate professional, and is a wonderful person to work with,” says Concord Mayor Dan Helix. “She’s earned her spurs in Concord already, and we’re proud of the job she has done. We look forward to working with her for many more years to come.”
Barone, who graduated from Humboldt State with a degree in natural resources planning and received an MBA from Cal State Sacramento, says she always was interested in planning, so city administration was a natural fit. She worked in San Mateo County and as community development manager for the cities of Milpitas and Walnut Creek before shifting her attention to Concord, Contra Costa’s largest city, and one that has always been mired in issues of land use.
“I am very good at pulling together disparate ideas and visions, and helping develop strong plans,” Barone says. “Especially those that are tied to reality, at least financially.” She says she has strong interest in municipal financing, something that isn’t sexy but that is “the cornerstone of strong city management.”
Barone received a crash course in those finances when she started in Concord in December of 2008, at the beginning of the economic downturn. The city faced a huge deficit that would cripple city services if it didn’t make changes – the major one being downsizing its staff. But through it all, Concord avoided massive layoffs, losing only eight city staff to layoffs. The rest were results of retirement and other vacancies, something Barone is very proud of.
With the goal of keeping the city on stronger financial footing, Barone was instrumental in the success of Measure Q in 2010, the half-cent sales tax. She says she felt good about being able to connect with many different community residents to help educate the public about the financial realities facing the city.
But that is what Barone does best, she says – work with people, whether they are community leaders, businesspeople, seniors, students or just an Average Joe off the street.
“Concord is so diverse, and I love bringing all those different viewpoints together to help solve problems.”
It’s a desire shared by many civic leaders throughout the country, but as Barone says, she has to make sure it’s more than just talk.
“My mother always used to say, good intentions are nothing if not backed up by a realistic plan,” she says. “That’s also been one of my guiding philosophies. It takes a community to make things happen.”
Email the new city manager at firstname.lastname@example.org