Academy Info

CORE Program Elements

  • Leadership Training by Leading Instructors.  Participants will gain a deeper understanding of regional issues, the legislative process, and policy development. We will discuss how to collaborate and communicate with a wide variety of regional stakeholders and entities. The diverse class roster allows for participants to learn about the variety of issues and the different practices and policies of other regional entities.
  • Skill Workshops.  Each year, we introduce advanced technical skill sessions that address writing skills, working with data, communication styles, understanding the legislative process, and a number of other skills tol help participants excel.  

  • Policy Awareness and Site Visits. To deepen our understanding of the issues that are driving regional policies, the program will include discussions with leading experts and selected site visits. The site visits vary with each class, but often touch on climate change, automation and autonomous vehicles, equity, goods movement, housing, and other issues. 

  • Regional Executive Speaker Series.  We will also be joined by accomplished regional executives for frank "unplugged" conversations. There will be an opportunity to explore the executive's career journey and discuss key issues and factors about their views.    

  • Evening Activities.  We understand that the relationships participants develop through the course may be one of the biggest assets of the program. We encourage this relationship-building by planning activities in the evening that are fun and allow participants to get to know one another informally after the classes are finished. 


 The Team Project

Each participant will be assigned to a small group for a team project. Each project will be selected to provide meaningful experiential and highlight a current regional issue for the entire class. The project will require an investigation and recommendation from the team that will culminate in a twenty-minute oral presentation supported by visuals, a summary written handout, and a list of resources for more information. The team will work directly with an executive from the sponsoring agency to identify the problem and define the scope of work.

Each project will be a real-world concern for the sponsoring agency. The outcome should be uncertain, but the scope of work will be defined so that it can be completed during the program. The project must be focused on a key "deliverable" that is of value to the agency or association. Each team member is expected to help lead the team to a successful conclusion and equally share in the work. Each team will meet with their Executive Sponsor at the beginning, mid-point and at the end of the project.

      Program Faculty And Leadership

  • Frank Benest, Instructor and Program Advisor. Frank is a noted trainer on collaborative service delivery, entrepreneurial government, civic engagement, and leadership development. He designs a number of leadership programs throughout California. Formerly, Dr. Benest served as the City Manager for the cities of Colton, Brea, and finally Palo Alto. He holds a doctorate in management from Brigham Young University; a Masters in Public Administration from California State University, Long Beach; and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University. Frank is a Credentialed ICMA Manager and serves as the Senior Advisor to ICMA on Next Generation Initiatives.  Frank also chairs the Cal-ICMA Coaching Program.  Frank is Past President of the California City Managers Department and past Vice President of the International City/County Management Association. Frank teaches at Stanford University and has been inducted into the National Academy of Public Administration. In 2011, Frank was recognized by ICMA with its Distinguished Career Service Award. Read Dr. Benest's Career Compass Columns here

  • Bill Higgins, Lead Instructor and Program Director. In addition to serving as CALCOG’s executive director, Bill Higgins is an experienced trainer, advocate, and thought leader.  He has written policy guides such as the Planning Commissioner Handbook(League of California Cities, 2004) and represented regional agencies before state agencies and the Legislature. He is a frequent speaker and has lead strategic planning retreats for regional boards. He has also served as an instructor for the UCLA and UC Davis Extension Services and has twice served as an adjunct professor in the Department of Environmental Science at Sonoma State University.  Bill has an undergraduate degree in Agriculture and Resource Economics and a law degree from the University of Minnesota.

  • Julia Lave Johnston, Program Assistant Director. Julia is currently the president for the California Chapter of the American Planning Association. Previous positions at the Institute for Local Government and the Local Government Commission focused on integrating health and sustainability into planning at the local and regional level. As the Director of the Land Use and Natural Resources program at UC Davis Extension, Julia designed innovative education coursework for professionals. As a deputy director for planning at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, she developed climate and planning policy ard help coordinated the Strategic Growth Council during its first two years. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon.

  • And More.  The structure of our program affords us the opportunity to contract with highly qualified professional leadership and skill instructors.  We select various instructors to discuss specific topics. We expect to retain as many as ten different instructors (not counting interviews with executives or policy awareness experts) to teach different elements of the class. In this way, participants get exposed to more ideas and perspective as they identify the right mix of leadership styles and strategies that will help them succeed.