Ed Shikada appointed San Jose city manager

Ed Shikada ­ courtesy of the  City of San Jose

Ed Shikada ­
courtesy of the
City of San Jose

SAN JOSE — Ed Shikada was recently promoted to San Jose city manager. In early November, the San Jose City Council announced the appointment of Shikada, who has served as San Jose assistant city manager since 2010. Shikada is set to assume the city manager position on Dec. 21, taking over for City Manager Debra Figone, who is retiring. He will receive a salary of $250,000. In his new role, Shikada will oversee 5,600 city employees and manage a $2.9 billion budget.

Shikada is actively involved in the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin. Over the years, he has served in various leadership roles with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, and helped coordinate scouting programs throughout East San Jose. Following his increased responsibilities, Shikada said he will have to step back from his coordinating role, as well as his involvement with the San Jose Community Youth Service, “a Japantown institution with youth sports and community programs,” but he expressed gratitude that others “have been willing to step up when needed. That’s true at many levels, and is really the essence of our community.” Shikada will remain involved at the church.

Shikada discussed his new role with the city in an e-mail interview with the Nichi Bei Weekly.

Nichi Bei Weekly: Congratulations on your promotion to the role of San Jose city manager. What will be your main responsibilities?
Ed Shikada: Under the city’s charter, San Jose operates with what is known as the Council-Manager plan. The council sets priorities and policy direction. As city manager, I will be responsible for daily operations of the city. The city manager reports to the mayor and City Council as a legislative body and is responsible for the hiring and performance of the vast majority of the city’s 5,600 employees, including department directors such as the police and fire chief, and for recommending council actions on budget and policy issues.

NBW: What projects are you most looking forward to overseeing?
ES: We have many challenges, in particular continuing to manage our costs and maximize services to the public. Our revenue appears to have stabilized, which is great. Unfortunately, over the past several years we had to cut services to a level that no one considers acceptable. I am looking forward to finding ways to build back services. This won’t be easy and requires rethinking how many priorities are managed, but it’s better than cutting. We are on the leading edge of figuring out how to meet a city’s needs in the new fiscal reality.

A couple of factors that make San Jose unique are its scale and community culture of innovation. I’m fond of saying that it’s big enough to have every challenge you could find in a world class city, yet small enough that you can actually make a difference. Some of your readers may actually be surprised to learn that San Jose is the 10th largest city in the U.S. This makes San Jose attractive to companies that want to be leaders, and reflects an engaged community that’s willing to adapt to change but won’t give up on quality of life. We have a number of environmental and smart growth initiatives in the works, and this helps build our reputation as a great place to be.

NBW: What do you anticipate will be some of the main challenges that you will face?
ES: The past several years have been overshadowed by budget and staffing cuts, along with continuing to wrestle with pension reform. This has really put the community and the organization in a tough spot as we confront the need for new revenue to compensate our people at competitive levels and sustain services, while ensuring that we’re doing the most we can with existing resources. This has recently been in the media in regards to the police, and there are other areas as well. Dealing with this requires building trust and collaboration with our workforce, as well as with the community, and that’s definitely a challenge.

NBW: How do you feel that your experience as assistant city manager has prepared you for your new role as city manager?
ES: I’ve now been with San Jose for more than 10 years and helped work through many of our difficult challenges, so I understand the issues and also know many of the people who are key to moving our city forward. I’m an engineer and spent much of my career in transportation and public works, so I tend to focus on deliverables and outcomes, and that’s where our organization needs to focus. As I mentioned, San Jose is unique in ways that present both challenges and opportunities, so I should be able to hit the ground running.

NBW: What have been some of the most enjoyable and fulfilling aspects of your work?
ES: At the end of the day, this is a great community and that makes the work here really rewarding. It’s a community that values diversity, which makes you want to help build on that. It’s given me the opportunity to work with people from around the world on issues that confront cities everywhere. That’s really fulfilling.

At the same time, I have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed working on Japantown issues. Few things worth doing are easy to accomplish, and Japantown can be a good example of that. Perhaps it’s because of the diverse views and goals people have for the area. Yet the history is so rich that it’s important to respect that context when we’re doing work that impacts the community.

We also have extraordinarily dedicated and talented staff. It’s easy to enjoy your job when you work with people that challenge and support you to be at your best. I’ve been privileged to enjoy this in San Jose, even when the issues have been really hard.

NBW: Over the course of your career, have you had any mentors?
ES: There have been many people that have provided support and encouragement, including former bosses and other senior professionals I’ve encountered throughout my career. These are people who have taken some time to show an interest in helping me grow and succeed, and it’s made a huge difference. It’s not hard and doesn’t need to take a lot of time to have an impact on a young person. I’ve also had the privilege of getting to know a few luminaries such as Norm Mineta. His story stands as a shining example of the trailblazing and sacrifices of our predecessors, as well as what we can achieve.

NBW: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in pursuing a leadership role in the city?
ES: This is an important time for community leadership. Baby boomers are moving on to new phases of their lives, and there simply aren’t as many people behind them to fill leadership roles.

The fact remains that our society can’t function without good leadership. I also believe that most people don’t set out to become community leaders. Instead, they apply their time and talents where they believe they can do the most good and over time take on greater leadership roles. That’s certainly been my story. To the extent this is accurate, my advice is to keep working at ways you believe will make a difference. Perhaps you can start small, with a project or event that you help put together without a long-term commitment. Soon you’ll have an opportunity for greater leadership that fits for you at the time, and off you go. It’s really critical that you see the value of what you’re doing, so as long as you do, step up!

NBW: Recently, it was announced that the Corporation Yard project is moving forward and that there are plans to build both luxury and affordable housing projects in San Jose’s Japantown. How do you feel that these projects reflect the community and its evolution?
ES: The Corporation Yard can add vitality and some amenities to the community, and at the same time needs to be financially feasible. This means it can’t be everything to everyone. The developments in the area will continue to reflect the evolving demographics in the area with both seniors and young people increasing in number. This will in turn drive community priorities.

We’ve recently had informal discussions about where the Japantown community overall sees its collective priorities, and willingness to explore self-funding some efforts. It’s clear that there are widely varying views on the problems and solutions, so we have quite a bit of work ahead.

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