Chamber Q&A with Dirk Brazil, City of South Lake Tahoe Interim City Manager
Tahoe Chamber | July 31, 2018 | Chamber News
After stepping down as the city manager of Davis, California, Dirk Brazil was enjoying the beginning of his retirement. But, it didn’t take long for a new opportunity to present itself.
Dirk was hired as the interim city manager of the City of South Lake Tahoe this June. He’s planned to fill the role for about six months. For Dirk, the chance to make a big impact in a short period of time while spending the summer above 6,000-feet lured him to the South Shore.
After a few weeks on the job, Dirk sat down with the Tahoe Chamber to discuss his background, priorities for his stint as the interim city manager, and previous efforts with business communities.
Tahoe Chamber: Tell us a bit about your background both professionally and personally.
Dirk Brazil: I have worked in the public sector my entire career. Long ago, I started out in the state legislature as a staffer to various legislators and the Speaker of the State Assembly. I also worked in the State Controller’s Office, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor and in the administration as the chief deputy of fish and game for Gray Davis. I also did a two-year stint as the chief deputy of fish and wildlife in Washington State. Prior to coming to South Lake Tahoe as interim city manager, I was the city manager for the City of Davis for three years. Prior to that, I was the assistant county administrator for Yolo County for eight years.
Why did you decide after retirement to take the interim city manager position here? What drew you to this role?
I hadn’t planned on returning to work so soon after retirement. I was really enjoying my free time. But the right people approached me and I was intrigued by the situation. A lot of interesting policy issues, spending summer at 6,000-feet instead of at the 100-degree plus valley floor, and a feeling that I could really make a difference in my short time here, all helped to push me out of retirement. And if I was being completely honest, I have to say that local government work is just in my blood.
How did you engage and work with the business community in your previous position as city manager in Davis?
South Lake Tahoe is similar to Davis in many ways and the interaction between city government and the business community is constant and direct. I was an active participant in the chamber and the Davis Downtown Business Association/Davis Downtown and made sure my senior level staff was as well. I created a civic arts program with the expressed intent of working with business to promote the arts as an economic development tool. I refocused the position of the economic development director to focus more clearly on the city of Davis, specifically to address the issues facing our downtown businesses – homelessness, cannabis, cleanliness and a variety of other issues.
I also made a point of being out and about, dropping into businesses and engaging owners and their employees on a regular basis. Our police and fire department staff also made regular efforts to stay in touch with business leaders, conducting walks to look directly into specific concerns—lighting, graffiti, noise, etc.
You’ll have about six months on this post as interim city manager. Is there any area of focus you will be looking at, or do you have any specific goals you’d like to achieve?
My job as interim city manager is to make sure that the trains run on time—council meetings are run efficiently, that staff reports are complete and that neither the council or the community are hit with surprises or unintended consequences. Ultimately, it’s making sure that when a new, full-time city manager is hired, he/she can hit the ground running. And that takes communication and planning and just about every leadership skill the City Leadership Team and I have in our collective arsenal.
At the end of the day, it’s all about good decision-making and finding the resources to implement whatever policy direction the city council has given staff. That often means doing more with less, a constant search for additional revenue and resources, and being open and honest with the council, community and staff about possible policy outcomes.
Has anything surprised you in your first month in this position or about South Lake Tahoe in general?
Actually, not really! You have to understand, the nature of cities and of city management is that the one thing I can always count on is surprises. It’s constant and just the way it is. No two days are the same and you need to know it and embrace it going to work every day.