Working Lunch with Bradley Hudson

Back Q&A Dec 1, 2011 By Douglas Curley

Bradley J. Hudson, 53, was hired as the Sacramento County executive in mid-August. With more than 25 years of administrative experience in civic government, he most recently served as the city manager of Riverside. Prior to that, he was the assistant CEO for Riverside County. He received degrees in business administration and public administration from Fresno State University and the University of San Francisco, respectively.

“When I moved from Riverside County to the city, I wasn’t really looking for the job. I had a reputation at the county for being able to get things done … so when they were looking for a new manager they approached me. It was an easy walk across the street for me. In my six years there, we launched an aggressive $1.5 million economic development program [and] had a re-do initiative that upgraded every aspect of the city, from parks and libraries to resource centers and infrastructure. At the same time, through a variety of streamline and efficiency measures, we cut costs by about 40 percent while increasing services to the public by about 40 percent. In my tenure there, the city was transformed from an area referenced with Bakersfield and Stockton to where it is now: referenced with Austin and Portland.”

“I’m a turnaround guy. I don’t like to sit on my hands too long and watch a smooth-running machine operate. With my work in Riverside pretty much concluded, the challenges offered by Sacramento County eventually became attractive to me. But it was a big move for my wife and I.”

“I came up and met with the County Board of Supervisors a couple times and watched video of several of their sessions. That’s really what got me interested. I saw how they interacted. No one was kooky, proposing new states and things like that. They are focused on the job at hand. They work well together. They may not agree on policy matters, but they didn’t personalize it.”

“The board here tends to be more process-oriented. In Southern California we are more outcome-oriented. Here, the community expects to be engaged a little longer. That adds time on to issues like developing a general plan. That’s been an 8-year process here. That’s a little long for me. That’s a 2- to 3-year process in both of my previous districts. I hope everything doesn’t take eight years here. If it takes eight years to get a building or planning permit, nothing is going to get developed.”

“Riverside’s economic drivers are much more diverse than here. Like Sacramento, down there we have government, construction and agriculture. But in Riverside we have a broader education sector (more colleges and universities) and a big logistics industry. Riverside still isn’t as diverse as it needs to be, and certainly Sacramento isn’t either.”

“Fiscally we’re a little more conservative down south, with a very large emphasis on carrying reserves and maintaining a very high credit rating. Up here, there seems a philosophy of carrying a little less in reserves so better and more services can be provided. A little different perspective there in terms of the use of resources that we have and how we manage them. Here, the county didn’t put much aside to deal with future budget shortfalls. It has gone through its reserves and is now struggling to get to a right size that can be supported by money available. The current county budget is balanced, but as we look over the economic horizon, even if we don’t hire anybody or add new programs, we realize we’ll not have sufficient revenues to cover costs over the next three or four years. Even if the economy remains flat, costs such as labor and fuel will go up. So we will continue to look at innovative ways to streamline, cut costs and provide public services more efficiently and effectively.”

“I have met with all of the county employee groups. They are mostly contracted out through 2013. It has been pretty rough around here for a couple years. There have been a lot of layoffs, furloughs and everything else you can do to balance the books. So the employees are pretty accustomed to difficult times now. We don’t have to spend much time convincing these folks of our dire budget situation. They get it. The next two or three years are going to be a tough row to hoe. A lot hinges on the economy, most of which is out of our hands. If we have to just keep grinding down programs and personnel, at some point we reach the state where it’s nearly impossible to make that next cut or service reduction.”

“I’ve been involved in many ‘Next Economy’-like efforts. This one involves four organizations (the Metro Chamber, the Sacramento Area Commerce & Trade Organization, the Sacramento Area Regional Technology Alliance and Valley Vision) with similar missions. They will analyze the product here, define potential customers for the purpose of job creation and target regional economic marketing activities. It’s kind of fundamental to basic economic development. This area is just a little late to the game. I’ve plowed those fields for many years, and when compared to other regions in the country, I just haven’t seen or heard much about the economic opportunities available here. Watch cable TV; you’ll see numerous campaigns for cities and regions throughout the U.S. Read an in-flight publication; it’s filled with similar print advertisements. The Sacramento region needs to increase its presence in these avenues and others if it’s going to become a major player.”

Hudson and his wife, Andrea, and 18-year-old son, Alex, are currently hopping between their Southern California home and an apartment in midtown Sacramento. “I’m enjoying midtown. I’m not use to being so close to everything. Usually, I’ve lived in large-lot residential areas where you have to get into a car to do anything. In midtown you really don’t have to get into a car to do anything.”

“Went to my first Raiders game in Oakland; that was an interesting experience. Not entirely different than a Raiders game in Los Angles, but pretty intense. You don’t sit down; it’s a standing experience. Dramatically different than going to an Angels game in Anaheim.”

At Morgan’s Restaurant in the Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel, while enjoying a lunch of the signature Dungeness crab salad, Hudson shares his insight and perspectives on Sacramento County and compares it to local government in Southern California.


VisitoMargaret Peggy Hartmann r (not verified)April 2, 2015 - 8:29am

hi brother,

Was in Sac. Last week for 5 days, asked bob to look you up but no word back, tell filt hi, miss you guys and the family has grown, grandpa and grandma, before me

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