Academy Info

CORE Program Elements

  • Leadership Training by Leading Instructors.  We have retained Dr. Frank Benest to help design our initial program (see biography below). We also have the recommendations of a number of superior trainers from our members. We are assembling a faculty of professional and proven trainers to assure that the quality of the training is superior.  

  • Skill Workshops.  Several technical skill sessions will also be worked into the program. Subjects include: improved writing skills, working with data, communication skills, understanding the legislative process, and a number of other skills that will help participants excel.  

  • Policy Awareness and Site Visits.  To deepen our understanding of the issues that are driving our policies, the program will include discussions with leading experts and site visits to gain a deeper understanding of key policy issues shaping California. These include climate change, automation and autonomous vehicles, equity, goods movement, housing, and other issues. For a few subjects, we will combine the policy discussion with a site visit to draw a more informed understanding of the issues. 

  • Regional Executive Speaker Series.  Each session, we will invite an accomplished regional executive for a frank "unplugged" conversation. There will be an opportunity to explore the executive's career journey and discuss key issues and factors about their views. In addition, each executive will present a case study based on a personal experience in his/her career for discussion.   

  • Evening Activities.  We understand that the relationships participants develop through the course of this program will outlast many of the skills that you will learn. We want to encourage that. To maximize these opportunities, we will plan a nice dinner and/or some event for the participants to set aside their learning and have some fun. 


 The Team Project

Each participant will be assigned to a five or six member team for a project. Each project will identified by a CALCOG Member and will be selected to provide meaningful discussion for a project for the academy participants. 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, define the scope of work, and report their findings.

The idea is to provide a collaborative learning experience to apply new leadership skills on a subject in which the participant is not entirely familiar. Each project will present real-world concern for the sponsoring agency. The outcome should be uncertain.  But the project should be defined enough in scope so that it is "doable" over the time of the program. Finally, 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. They will schedule meetings with the Executive Sponsor at the beginning, mid-point and at the end of the project. More information will be provided to participants in the weeks preceding the first meeting.

      Program Faculty (So Far)

  • Dr. Frank Benest, Instructor and Chief Program Advisor.  Until August 2008, Dr. Frank Benest served as the City Manager of Palo Alto, California.  Frank is a noted consultant and trainer on collaborative service delivery, entrepreneurial government, civic engagement, leadership development and succession planning.  He also consults and designs on a number of similar leadership programs in Northern California.  Prior to his appointment in Palo Alto, Frank served as City Manager in Brea and Colton, California.   He has 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, Academy Facilitator, Technical Skill Instructor.  Bill Higgins is the Executive Director of the California Association of Councils of Governments.  Mr. Higgins has written policy guides such as the Planning Commissioner Handbook (League of California Cities, 2004).  Mr. Higgins 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 Unviversity.  Mr. Higgins has an undergraduate degree in Agriculture and Resource Economics and a law degree from the University of Minnesota.  

  • More Instructors To Be Added Soon.  The structure of our program affords us the opportunity to contract with highly qualified professional leadership and skill instructors.  We are currently in discussion with a number of other qualified professional trainers that will be added to our program faculty in the coming weeks and months.  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.