Livermore's new City Manager Marianna Marysheva has had her hands full since officially taking over the role in June -- and while there seems to never be a dull moment, she told Livermore Vine she is excited for the work ahead.
Marysheva was the top contender in the city's nationwide search to succeed Marc Roberts, which began shortly after he announced last December his pending retirement after serving for 10 years as city manager.
Marysheva had the opportunity to work alongside Roberts for a few weeks in a transition-of-power period. Now, she's approximately three months into the job of managing what she refers to as "a very busy city organization."
"Looking at a community that is smaller than 100,000 residents, there is a lot happening for us," she said. "The focus has been on downtown and when I think about downtown itself, it's very busy. I go there often to dine and visit the farmers' markets -- both of them -- so not only do you have a very busy dining and entertaining scene but also we have additional development that's going to be coming," she added.
While Marysheva said she thinks the end result will be worthwhile, she also recognizes the heavy workload that comes with such a major revitalization project.
"Downtown itself I think is generating a lot of excitement and a lot of activity but with that comes a lot of work, overseeing the development, working with developers, working with businesses that are impacted," she said.
Although Livermore's downtown revitalization project has been a topic that has garnered a lot of community interest and various aspects of the plan have been met by challenges -- including the city-approved 130-unit Eden Housing development that is currently at the center of a contentious community debate -- Marysheva said many residents don't realize how much is happening throughout the rest of the city.
"We are right now going through an update of the city's General Plan, which is a major planning document for any community and it's very intricate and it's very important for us with everyone involved -- City Council, Planning Commission, you also have the General Plan Advisory Committee of residents, property owners, businesses -- to really carefully look at the mix of uses that we're creating in the city or maybe updating through the General Plan."
The Isabel Neighborhood Specific Plan is also a big priority for the city, according to Marysheva. "It's been on people's minds and in the news and that's where a lot of the new housing development is happening," she said.
The Isabel plan would allow development of 4,095 new multi-family housing units and approximately 2.1 million square feet of net new office, business park and commercial development, among other amenities. During Mayor Bob Woerner's State of the City address in July, he said the project is key to meeting 50% of the city's Regional Housing Needs Allocation.
Marysheva said that the city's community engagement strategy is an area that she wants to bolster. "When I think about engagement, I think about three groups: one is residents, two is businesses and three is employees. It's very important to engage with all three groups on a regular basis," she said.
She continued, "With regards to businesses, for example, I think we can engage them a little more to completely understand what their needs are throughout the city and how we as a city through policies, through processes, through programs can assist them better to stay here, to grow here, and to contribute to the local economy."
"I'm very thankful for the partnership that we have with the chamber as well as Livermore Downtown, Inc. because they are our liaisons to businesses but I think we can do more and we can hear from businesses more and by hearing from them more -- either through the chamber, LDI or directly -- we can serve them better," she said.
Some of the services include streamlining processes for applying for permits, building improvements and expansions, among other things.
"We need to make sure that our processes are clear, simple and fast for businesses. We also want to be a welcoming community, so to the extent that someone wants to start a business -- whatever approvals are needed from the city -- we as a city make it easy, we make it simple and we make it fast," she said.
While she expressed excitement for all the things to come downtown including more housing, the wine country hotel, the black box theater and the Quest Science Center, Marysheva said that in her capacity, she wants to make sure that the city pays adequate attention to the entire community.
"For example, in the Springtown neighborhood, the branch library there requires attention and so we actually began some minor but visible improvements," she said. "We're updating the sign, we're updating the landscaping in front of the library and installing some drought tolerant landscaping that will also have some vibrant colors, we'll make some upgrades to the back of the branch where we're potentially looking at a community garden.
"So, making sure that areas outside of downtown are also receiving adequate attention is a goal of mine and that applies to all neighborhoods in the city," she added.
In addition to the drought-tolerant landscaping being planted at the Springtown Branch Library, Marysheva said the city is looking at city-owned landscaping throughout the community to see how it can do better from a drought standpoint and still have attractive grounds.
Along those same lines, Marysheva noted that the city is updating its Climate Action Plan.
"When you think about climate action, a lot of times people just can't relate to the words because it sounds federal, it sounds removed, but it's not. Planting drought-tolerant landscaping is fighting climate change. So, there are a lot of things the city can do directly and that we can educate residents and businesses to do," she said.
Among those things is preparing for more electric vehicles and installing more charging stations throughout the city, according to Marysheva.
She added that the city is also working with the Lawrence Livermore and Sandia national laboratories on their efforts to contribute to climate adaptation.
Fiscal sustainability is another area of importance that Marysheva said tends to be a challenge for most city organizations.
"We want to provide the best services but there's only so much money to pay for things," she said, adding: "When I look at city staff, we're doing a lot with the staff that we have but in some departments we are chronically understaffed so, as we look at the next two-year budget that we'll start preparing early in 2023, we really need to carefully analyze each department's realistic staffing needs and assess them and I think the needs will far exceed the resources that we have available. So, I definitely want to pay attention to staffing."
She said the same type of assessment by staff and City Council applies to maintaining city assets such as sidewalks, roads, facility improvements and other financial responsibilities. However, with a new mayor and two new City Council members set to join the council after the Nov. 8 general election, a more immediate goal will be bringing them up to speed on existing policies and educating them on the inner workings of the city.
"I'm looking forward to that. I think it's exciting because my management philosophy is working in collaboration and as a team with different players and that includes my own executive team, that includes City Council, residents and businesses," Marysheva said. "We're all contributing to the success of the city and so having three new members of the City Council come in and working with them as a team to continue moving the city forward is going to be very exciting," she said.
Prior to joining the city of Livermore, Marysheva earned a bachelor's degree in urban studies from San Francisco State University and a master's in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley. She worked two different stints in Oakland city administration (as budget director from 2001 to 2005, appointed by then-mayor Jerry Brown, and as assistant city administrator from 2008 to 2011) and most recently, she was employed by the city of Irvine as assistant city manager and interim city manager from September 2020 until last December.
She also previously worked as assistant city manager of Riverside and town manager of Mammoth Lakes.
When she was initially hired, Marysheva still lived in Southern California but has since relocated to Livermore with her 13-year-old twins whom she said she feels lucky to raise in such a "special" community.
"It is impressive to me how much a relatively small community and a relatively small organization is able to do," according to Marysheva.
"This is a community that is forward-thinking and that's impressive. When I think about the community itself, three words come to mind: beautiful, kind and genuine," she said, adding that the beauty applies to the way the city looks and the collective pride in keeping the city attractive. Kind and genuine, she said, both apply to the people she's encountered within the city organization and outside of it in her daily life.