PLACEMENT NEWS: Laurel Prevetti selected to serve as Los Gatos Town Manager


After a four-month, nationwide search, we are happy to announce that the Town of Los Gatos chose to promote Laurel Prevetti to Town Manager. She was previously the Town’s Assistant Town Manager and Community Development Director.

Mayor Marcia Jensen said in a new release, “Laurel stood out from among the candidates for her land use and management expertise as well as her familiarity with town issuesthe council is confident that Ms. Prevetti will bring a new perspective to the town manager position which will emphasize transparency and engagement with the community.

Teri Black, CEO of Teri Black & Company, LLC, the executive search firm specializing in local government placements that facilitated the search added, “We were thrilled to place Laurel in her first City Manager role.  She is extraordinarily dedicated and hardworking, and her land use expertise brought incomparable value for this treasured community. Los Gatos will now benefit from her leadership in a different capacity as she continues to expand her high highly regarded contributions.”

Laurel began her new role on September 2nd. Upon accepting her appointment, Laurel indicated that transparency is important because it encourages people to be involved. “It means people care,” she said. “We need to know what people want so we’re moving in the right direction. We’re really looking to be more transparent so people can participate as much as possible.”

Laurel received her Bachelor and Master’s degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.

Laurel’s photo by George Stakkestad

STEVE PARKER: Our hearts are broken…losing one of our own.


It’s with deep sadness that we announce the passing of our longtime public safety recruiter, Steve Parker. If you have been a candidate in one of our fire chief recruitments over the last 8 years, you undoubtedly had the good fortune of talking to or working with Steve. He was a dedicated professional who remained passionate about the fire service and recruiting quality leadership until the very end.

Chief Parker came up through the ranks of the Huntington Beach Fire Department. He served as Chief in Vernon before “retiring” in 2005. It wasn’t long before he was back in the Chief’s seat again taking on an Interim Fire Chief assignment in Costa Mesa. It was there that mutual friend/client Terri Cassidy introduced Steve to Teri Black and the rest is history. As soon as TBC recruited a new Chief for Costa Mesa, Teri B convinced Steve that he would be a great recruiter. “Steve wasn’t just a great recruiter, he was an awesome recruiter from day one. Even more impressive is that he was simply a phenomenal human being.”

During his time with TBC, Steve also served as Interim Fire Chief for the cities of Hermosa Beach and Newport Beach until we convinced him that he really loved recruiting more. Candidates loved working with Steve as they knew he had their best interests at heart. Over the last few years, he impacted hundreds of careers and played a key role in placing some of the most successful and progressive fire chiefs in California.

Steve lost his battle with a rare and aggressive form of multiple myeloma this past Sunday. Even though the loss is devastating, all of us at TBC will be forever grateful for his courageous spirit, relentless commitment to do great work, abundant love for his family, ridiculous sense of humor and contagious booming laugh! #curecancer

PLACEMENT NEWS: Amanda Thomas Now Serves as Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Chief Financial Officer

Amanda Thomas Sacramento Metro Chief Financial Officer CFO

We are happy to announcement the placement of Amanda Thomas as Chief Financial Officer for the Sacramental Metropolitan Fire District. Amanda was previously the Deputy Director of Airport Finance and Administration for the Sacramento County Department of Airports where she managed an annual budget of $200 million.

“Amanda has extensive experience in local government and as a consultant, is an excellent communicator with an extraordinary business/enterprise mindset,” said Teri Black, President & CEO of Teri Black & Company, LLC, an executive recruiting firm specializing in local government placements. “…and coupled with her strong knowledge and experience in all areas of local government finance and incredible versatility, she was the ideal candidate for the district.”

Amanda’s senior management experience in local government includes capital and debt financing; federal grant acquisition and management; financial reporting; as well as lease and contract negotiations and management.

Amanda received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Stanford University.

PLACEMENT NEWS: City of Beverly Hills picks Ryan Gohlich as new Assistant Community Development Director/City Planner

Ryan Gohlich as new Assistant Community Development Director for Beverly Hills, CA

We are delighted to announce that the City of Beverly Hills recently selected Ryan Gohlich to serve as Assistant Community Development Director/City Planner.

“Ryan has more than nine years in public and private sector planning, extensive experience and knowledge of Beverly Hills and a genuine passion for the city’s ‘uniqueness’,” said Teri Black, President & CEO of Teri Black & Company, LLC, an executive recruiting firm specializing in local government placements. She added, “This talented professional has a very promising and long career ahead of him and we were privileged to play a small role in his most recent advancement.”

Ryan received his Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership from Woodbury University and his Bachelor of Science in City and Regional Planning from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

PLACEMENT NEWS: Murrieta hires new Fire Chief, Scott Ferguson

Murrieta Fire Chief, Scott Ferguson

It is a great pleasure to announce the placement of Scott Ferguson as Fire Chief for the City of Murrieta. Chief Ferguson will begin his new role on May 18th. He was previously Fire Chief for the fire departments of Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach, California.

Chief Ferguson has an outstanding background and his reputation among his peers is impeccable. He has exactly the right skillset to lead the Murrieta Fire Department as we move forward”, said City Manager Rick Dudley.

With over 30 years experience in fire science and management, Chief Ferguson is exceptionally qualified to assume this appointment,” said Teri Black, President & CEO of Teri Black & Company, LLC, an executive recruiting firm specializing in local government placements.

In addition to Chief Ferguson’s expansive experience, he’s also served as fire instructor at a variety of venues including Los Angeles Area Fire Chiefs Executive Chief Officer Development; the Firehouse World Expo and the Arizona State Fire School, and was recently approved as an instructor for the National Fire Academy.

Chief Ferguson received a Master’s degree in Management from Wayland Baptist University, and a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Oregon University. He is also a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer’s Program.

Pleasanton, CA Chosen Among USA Today’s Four Best Cities

recruitments for the city of Pleasanton

In a recent report published by USA Today, two California cities, Pleasanton and Mountain View, were placed at numbers 4 and 3 respectively on the list of best American cities in which to live. The placement of Pleasanton as the fourth best city in which to live is especially noteworthy as Teri Black and Company and Pleasanton are currently working together to fill some important positions – two Assistant City Managers and a Fire Chief for the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department.

The USA Today article was based on 24/7 Wall St.’s special report, in which it selected the 50 most livable American cities ( Factors such as employment growth, unemployment rates, quality of education, housing prices, and crime rates were taken into consideration when reviewing data on cities with populations of 65,000 or more. The full article on America’s best cities to live in can be seen at

Just days later, Pleasanton earned another distinction with CNN MONEY ranking Pleasanton the 31st best places to live in American out of 781 cities based on 50 different criteria which included great jobs, a strong economy, excellent schools, healthcare, and much more. Check-out the complete story at

These recent acknowledgements reinforce the many reasons why TBC is pleased to continue its long-term relationship with this valued client. For more information about recruitments for the City of Pleasanton, please visit

PLACEMENT SPOTLIGHT: San Mateo Names Brad Underwood New Public Works Director

City of San Mateo

We are pleased to have assisted San Mateo with the selection of Brad Underwood as the City’s new Public Works Director. He will begin his tenure with San Mateo on September 29th transitioning from Foster City where he currently serves as Public Works Director.

Brad has enjoyed an extensive and dedicated career in the public sector and brings with him 30 years of broad public works experience. Due to the multiple similarities in infrastructure and programs shared by San Mateo and Foster City, San Mateo officials are confident that Brad is well-equipped to effectively take the helm in San Mateo and transition smoothly into his new position. He is already familiar with certain aspects of the San Mateo Public Works department, having previously worked with the city on projects such as the Waste Water Treatment Plant and FEMA. He has also expressed his excitement at continuing to advance initiatives that benefit both the environment and San Mateo’s citizens, such as its green streets initiative.

Before Foster City, Brad worked for the City of Bakersfield, starting as an engineer before being promoted to managerial positions including General Services Supervisor, Operations Manager, and ultimately Assistant Public Works Director in 2008. His passion for providing positive encouragement to his team members, as well as his exceptional leadership skills, have always been highlighted as a key component of his success throughout his career. “Brad’s technical background, leadership ability and focus on relationship building captures several key qualities needed to fill the Director position,” said Larry Patterson, San Mateo City Manager.

Underwood, a native Californian, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

City of Manhattan Beach selects next City Manager

Mark Danaj, Manhattan Beach City Manager

Teri Black & Company, LLC is proud to announce that the Manhattan Beach City Council has selected Mark Danaj as their next City Manager.  In a statement, Manhattan Beach City Mayor Amy Howorth said, “Mark represents the next generation of City Managers who offer fresh ideas and contemporary approaches to leading municipalities in partnership with the communities they serve.  The City Council is thrilled to have attracted someone of Mark’s caliber to Manhattan Beach.”  The City Council will vote on the appointment at their regularly scheduled May 20th meeting.

Mark comes to Manhattan Beach from Fremont, California, where he presently serves as Assistant City Manager and Chief Operating Officer.  Located on the northeast edge of the Silicon Valley, Fremont, CA [pop. 215,000] is the 14th largest city in the state.  Fremont has been identified as one of the “Best Run Cities in America,” as ranked by 24/7 Wall Street.  Mark’s guidance in the city’s transformation also garnered the attention of industry, which made Fremont #1 in the country for technology start-up businesses per capita.

“Mark has an outstanding reputation for leadership, integrity, transparency and public engagement.  We look forward to working with Mark in building a strong future for our Manhattan Beach community,” said Mayor Pro Tem Wayne Powell. The City Council was impressed with his 16+ years of public sector management  experience, his vision and track record of offering non-traditional solutions to large and smalls scale challenges alike.  Mark’s accomplishments transcend many aspects of local government and include fiscal sustainability initiatives, new civic engagement methods and contemporary economic development strategies.

Active in the profession, Mark serves as Chair of the Alameda’s County City Managers’ Association, and is a member of ICMA’s Governmental Affairs and Policy Committee, as well as the National League of Cities’ Information Technology and Communications Steering Committee.

Mark holds an MBA from the University of Notre Dame and a Bachelor‘s degree in Economics and Political Science from Marquette University.  He is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Senior Executives in State and Local Government program and is an ICMA credentialed manager.  Follow him on Twitter @Mark Danaj

For inquiries, please contact Teri Black & Company, LLC:
tel 310.377.2612 |
Twitter: @TeriBlack, LinkedIn and Facebook

Time for a Corporate Culture Makeover ?

Although recovery is benefiting many sectors of our economy, organizations find that simply throwing money at high performers turns out to be an ineffective means of retaining top talent. Money rarely ranks at the top of “why I love my job” list. As competition for stellar employees and executives grows increasingly fierce, many organizations could use a “culture makeover” to enhance the likelihood of hanging onto their superstars.

In her book The Progress Principle, Harvard Professor Teresa Amabile calls attention to the significance of making progress in meaningful work as the most powerful positive event from which employees derive satisfaction. In interviewing hundreds of candidates each year, we hear a lot of complaints about culture and it’s often the impetus for someone to initiate the process of changing jobs

Here are the top four missing culture characteristics consistently cited:

1. Flexibility. Whether it’s wanting more time with the kids, tending to the needs of aging parents, learning a new language or having the option to work remotely on occasion, your best performers value flexibility around when, where and how they get their work done. Today more than ever, flexibility is highly coveted.

2. Connection. A frequently cited disappointment conveyed by front-line workers is a missing connection between their contributions and the bigger picture. This disconnect is commonly framed as, “Where are we going?” or “Why are we doing ‘this’?”. And when such a disconnect exists, employees also question how meaningful their work is and if their superiors even really know what they do.

3. Clarity. Employees crave clear expectations, roles, career paths, boundaries, and how success is defined for them. Managers often assure us that their employees know exactly what is expected of them and are aware of what constitutes desired results and success. When we talk to their employees, however, it’s not uncommon to find a mutual understanding that can be described as “blurry” at best.

4. Communications. The most prominent weakness we hear universally cited by employees at all levels is the desire for greater communications and information. The lack of communication impacts their commitment, ownership, pride and productivity. While it’s nice to hear directly from the Chief Executive, most employees report that a variety of communication strategies from their bosses help keep them engaged, informed and energized about their work. Electronic newsletters, regular meetings, video messages and even an occasional old fashioned handwritten note are all effective tools for satisfying the hunger for information and personal acknowledgement.

While employees want to listen, they also want to be heard. In order to feel truly valued, they want to offer up ideas, share constructive criticism, convey customer feedback and contribute strategically to the big picture.

Today, we’re all bogged down by too much information, competing priorities and technology tools tempting us to be available 24/7. Dedicating time and energy to culture is often viewed as optional by many leaders and only gets tended to when something goes horribly wrong or a pattern of fleeing employees comes to the attention of management. Don’t wait for a crisis to be concerned about employee retention and the reputation of your corporate culture. What change can you make in your environment to strengthen the magnetic force of your workplace?

Permission to reprint granted so long as article is published in its entirety and author is credited with the following:

Teri Black is a lifelong student of high performance and success and is President/CEO of a Los Angeles based executive search firm dedicated to serving the public sector. Teri Black & Company, LLC has recruited hundreds of local government executives for communities across the western United States.

Copyright 2013 Teri Black & Company, LLC. For more information, please contact us. Don’t forget to sign-up for TBC updates; connect with us on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn!

10 Traits of Highly Effective Leaders

I was on location with a client recently, developing an executive candidate profile for a search we will be launching soon. While there, I had the opportunity to pick the brains of incredibly talented and respected executives who represent the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

In our discussions regarding the most critical characteristics frequently found in highly effective leaders, these common themes emerged:

1. Lead by Example: The behavior of the top executive sets the tone and example for the rest of the organization.

2. Accountable: Is 100% accountable for work performance of all those s/he leads, and embraces the responsibility of holding team members accountable.

3. Superior Interpersonal Skills: Masters the art of being able to connect with anyone regardless of title or role. S/he exhibits a genuine interest in everyone with whom s/he engages.

4. Not Entitled by Title: Whether a CEO of a major corporation or a high level government official, the most effective leaders don’t let their titles define them or allow it to inflate their egos.

5. Careful Listeners and Observers: Part of being an outstanding communicator means being a thoughtful listener. Great leaders are adept at not only processing information, but weighing in at the right time as well. In addition, they are lifelong students of human behavior.

6. Unequivocal Standards: Respected executives hold the line when it comes to realizing exceptionally high standards and expectations. High standards influence corporate culture along with the feel and durability of the brand.

7. Invests Time Wisely: Simply stated, being a good time manager helps one balance the never ending stream of competing priorities that are common to any CEO’s universe.

8. Seeks Advice and Counsel: Confident in his/her own abilities, adept leaders don’t hesitate to tap the knowledge and skills of their vast network. They appreciate the power of seeking advice and counsel of others instead of viewing this as a weakness.

9. Invites the Ideas of Others: The best at the top respect that innovation and solutions can come from anywhere and anyone. Their openness and proactive pursuit of ideas can enhance a collaborative culture and strengthen the creativity of any team.

10. Unflappable Demeanor: Whether there’s a natural disaster, major operational breakdown, or some other kind of drama, truly effective leaders are cool, calm and collected – regardless of the circumstance.

These are characteristics that should be evaluated during the interview process. For candidates, this is a helpful list that can help you define and articulate the strength of your individual leadership profile. For the hiring decision makers and influencers, this list can be used to inspire relevant interview questions that dive deeper into specific sociological dynamics of your desired executive. The good news is these characteristics can be learned, and by becoming aware of them, you can consciously strive to refine how they are practiced. After all, the best leaders lead by example.

Permission to reprint granted so long as article is published in its entirety and author is credited with the following:

Teri Black is a lifelong student of high performance and success and is President/CEO of a Los Angeles-based executive search firm dedicated to serving the public sector. Teri Black & Company, LLC has recruited hundreds of local government executives for communities across the western United States.

Copyright 2013 Teri Black & Company, LLC. For more information, please contact us. Don’t forget to sign-up for TBC updates; connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn!